A regular feature of the Companies We Follow series here on IPWatchdog is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), the Mountain View, CA-based developer of Internet-related services and products, many of which are nearly ubiquitous in our society, especially the company’s flagship search engine.
Anyone who has followed Google’s research and development over the past few years knows that the company has designs that go far beyond Internet searches and e-mail services. Google made a big leap into computing hardware with the Google Glass wearable, which the company hopes will be more than just an accessory for Android phones, even going so far as to innovate a system that shows wearers a variety of dance moves based on any music being played. Android Wear technology owned by Google will be part of a luxury smartwatch developed in collaboration with Intel and Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer. Google plans to be a major player in these wearable fields and has been pioneering some incredibly innovative technologies, including one fitness tracking service that could possibly be used for cancer detection.
Look around a little further and it’s amazing to consider the incredible scope of our daily lives in which Google plans to have a say. With our focus this year on the great speed of innovation involving cars that employ autonomous driving technology, Google is a name that keeps coming up on our radar. Google’s self-driving car development has advanced so far beyond what our country’s laws are currently able to regulate that the technology has hit some legal stumbling blocks. As a result, Google has been focusing recently on inventing pedestrian safety systems to be incorporated with its self-driving car, even receiving a patent recently from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for an airbag that would protect pedestrians in a collision. The company even has its focus on surgical robotics, recently announcing a partnership with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) to develop surgical robots that would assist human surgeons.
During 2014, Google earned the 8th-greatest total of U.S. patents from the USPTO with 2,566 patents in that year, trailing 7th-place Qualcomm by less than 30 patents. Our research using Innography’s patent portfolio analysis tools showed us that Google received 721 U.S. patents during the first three months of 2015, putting Google on a pace of innovation that would surpass last year’s totals. As the text cluster here shows us, much of that recent innovation has focused on mobile devices, computing devices and user interfaces for Google’s computing products.
What follows is a breakdown of recent Google patent activity that caught our interest during our periodic review.
Google’s Issued Patents: Autonomous Driving and Robots With Personality
We were quick to spot one patent recently issued by the USPTO for self-driving vehicles, reflected in U.S. Patent No. 8996224, which is titled Detecting That an Autonomous Vehicle Is in a Stuck Position. It protects a method of determining that the speed of an autonomous vehicle is less than a threshold speed and that the vehicle has not detected a traffic control signal, identifying a cause for the speed being less than the threshold speed, starting a timer, determining that the cause of the low speed remains after the timer expires and sending an assistance signal indicating that the car is stuck. The system is designed to respond to situations where a self-driving car may be trying to follow contradictory navigational commands, arresting its movement. Google’s self-driving cars will be
able to navigate construction areas more safely thanks to the technology reflected in U.S. Patent No. 8996228, which is titled Construction Zone Object Detection Using Light Detection and Ranging. The patent claims a method of receiving light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensor measurements relating to a 3D point cloud of a road at a computing device controlling a vehicle, selecting a portion of the 3D point cloud, identifying construction zone objects within that portion, determining the number and location of those objects, determining the likelihood of the existence of a construction zone, determining a severity of road changes due to the existence of the construction zone and modifying a control strategy for driving behavior. Google’s transportation technology goals include methods of intelligent traffic management, as is reflected by U.S. Patent No. 8996286, which is titled Method for Analyzing Traffic Patterns to Provide Solutions for Alleviating Traffic Problems. The patent protects a computer-implemented method for providing a suggested modification to road characteristics by receiving signals for a plurality of users indicating the locations of those users at different points in time, determining a flow of traffic corresponding to those users, identifying a high traffic area within the flow of traffic, analyzing road characteristics in the high traffic area and providing a suggested modification based on that analysis. This invention serves as a system for identifying patterns of high traffic and providing solutions for alleviating high traffic areas.
Although not necessarily limited to vehicles, we were very intrigued by an alternative fuel system invented by Google and disclosed by U.S. Patent No. 8993187, which is titled Method and Device for Limiting Crossover in Fuel Cell Systems. The fuel cell system protected here has an anode layer and a cathode layer, both of which are coupled to an electric load, a liquid fuel chamber disposed opposite to an electrolyte layer, a liquid fuel jet nozzle for spraying fuel onto the anode layer, a water jet nozzle coupled to a water storage unit that sprays water onto a different region of the anode layer and a controller that determines an appropriate molecular ratio for the fuel-water mixture. This fuel cell system presents a more efficient way of producing energy while addressing problems associated with excess water mixing with fuel, which can reduce fuel efficiency.
Robotics is a technology that is always of interest to us here at IPWatchdog and Google is developing more personable robotic technologies as our readers can see in U.S. Patent No. 8996429, titled Methods and Systems for Robot Personality Development. The method for providing a robot apparatus with a personality claimed here involves obtaining information regarding user communication which includes personification indicators, processing that information to obtain data usable to modify a robotic apparatus; the processing is performed by accessing a cloud computing system and analyzing characters, word choice and sentence structure of the communication. This innovation seeks to leverage the power of cloud computing to construct more robust personality systems for robotics.
In recent weeks Google also received a patent protecting a technology for more accurate measurements of a TV audience, important for media research studies. U.S. Patent No. 8997132, titled System and Method for Identifying Computer Systems Being Used by Viewers of Television Programs, protects a computer-implemented method performed on a television metering device that monitors an audio signal received by a microphone of the metering device that corresponds to a television program, an audio tone generated by an audio transmitter of the TV viewer and an audio tone generated by a computer system in use by the TV viewer; the signal is analyzed to determine an identifier for the TV program being watched, an audio tone generated by an audio transmitter of the viewer and an identifier for the computer system in use by a TV viewer for transmission to the metering device. This system allows a metering device to determine that participants are accessing a media device even if the participant forgot to log into the television metering device.
Patent Applications of Note: From Aerial Vehicles to Socially Connected TV Sets
Google’s R&D focus on autonomous vehicles doesn’t seem to be slowing up any day soon to judge by the patent applications being filed by Google in recent months. U.S. Patent Application No. 20150088412, titled Systems and Methods for Providing Navigation Data to a Vehicle, claims a computer-readable medium that implements a navigation application programming interface (API) with a specific syntax and list of parameters for providing navigation data to a head unit of a vehicle that configures a navigation API to receive a destination from a companion application, obtain navigation data to navigate a user from the source to the navigation destination and provide navigation data to the companion application for transmission to the head unit through a short-range communication link. This innovation is intended to allow the incorporation of navigation APIs other than those provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
It’s amazing to think that Google has matured from a company that only produced Internet services to a corporation that is developing flying vehicles, but that’s exactly what we’re seeing in U.S. Patent Application No. 20150076284, titled Methods and Systems for Transitioning an Aerial Vehicle Between Hover Flight and Crosswind Flight. It claims a method of operating a vehicle in a hover-flight orientation while connected to a tether which is connected to a ground station, position the aerial vehicle at a first location downwind of the ground station and substantially on a tether sphere defined by the length of the tether, transitioning the vehicle from a hover-flight orientation to a forward-flight orientation in such a way that reduces the tension on the tether and operating the aerial vehicle in a forward-flight orientation to ascend at an angle to a different position. This system facilitates the conversion of kinetic energy to electric energy for an aerial vehicle; some embodiments of the invention may reduce drag, which would further reduce the thrust need for aerial vehicle operation.
Google is still developing technologies for its Google Glass wearables, one of which can be seen within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150077312, which is titled Near-to-Eye Display Having Adaptive Optics. This patent protects an optical apparatus that includes a light source to output an image for display to a user’s eye, a single continuous deformable mirror surface positioned in an optical path of the image output, an actuator system coupled to the mirror surface to selectively adjust a curvature of the mirror surface, a partially transparent mirror placed in front of the user’s eye and optically aligned with the mirror surface for the reflecting of an output image to a user’s eye and a computer generated image (CGI) engine coupled to drive the light source. This innovation is designed to enable more complex viewing modes, such as the ability to see larger fields of view, without increasing the unwanted appearance of ghosting effects or other issues associated with the use of mirrors. More effective gadget charging techniques are also being developed by Google, as is reflected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150091501, filed under the title Self Balanced Stand Inductive Charger. This patent discloses a device that includes a housing having two ends, one of which is rounded sufficiently weighted to maintain the device at a first angle greater than zero degrees when placed upon a flat surface, and an inductive charging component disposed within the housing. The weighting system of this inductive charger enables the easier separation of an electronic device from a charging device with the use of a single hand.
Intriguing home technologies are also being pioneered by this corporation. The “Works with Nest” platform being developed by Google seems to be at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150083813, which is titled Soliciting User Input for Thermostat Control. The method protected by this patent involves receiving a temperature limit, receiving a tolerance measure for events outside the limit and operating an air temperature device outside of the temperature limit based on the received information. This technology is designed to give homeowners greater control over thermostat operation regardless of their participation in certain opt-in programs that modify air control device performance during peak electricity demand times. The greater integration of Internet services into television sets is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150088988, filed under the title Social Queue on Television. It claims a method of receiving a share request from a sender viewing channel content, determining an identity of the channel content displayed on the device, determining an identity of the recipient, determining that the recipient has the permission to consume the channel content and adding channel content to a queue associated with the recipient. This innovation enables the sharing of content through televisions between social contacts.
Finally, we’ll take a look at a information technology developed by Google to help businesses inform employees about the cost-effectiveness of their decisions. U.S. Patent Application No. 20150088997, titled Method and System for Tracking Estimated Cost of Events, protects a method for determining the cost of an event by detecting the initiation of an event involving one or more intended participants, determining an estimated duration of the event and determining the total estimated cost of the event based on its estimated duration and a cost per time unit for each of the participants. This invention is designed to track costs associated with the costs of holding a meeting, including time lost because employees are engaged in a meeting or responding to an e-mail thread, and letting employees know so that they can make more cost-effective decisions.