Google patents method for providing a robot with a personality

google-personality-robotThe innovations coming out of Google’s research and development facilities tend to inspire a range of emotions. We talked about the incredibly wide range of technologies being pioneered by this Internet services giant, which is also developing autonomous cars and surgical robots, in our most recent Companies We Follow feature for Google. We’ve also covered acquisitions by Google that underscore the company’s desire to be successful in the growing field of digital wallets.

There must be very few areas of human life that Google hasn’t considered improving through some form of technological advance. This even includes the grieving process after a loved one dies apparently. Google has recently received a patent on a method of giving a robot a personality, and in the Summary of the Invention the company explains: “The robot may be programmed to take on the personality of real-world people (e.g., behave based on the user, a deceased loved one, a celebrity and so on) so as to take on character traits of people to be emulated by a robot.” Thus, the claims on the Internet that Google has created a robot that takes on the personality of a deceased loved one, seem grounded in fact, which itself is a little surprising.

U.S. Patent No. 8996429, entitled Methods and Systems for Robot Personality Development, was issued to Google on March 31st. It claims a method for providing a robot apparatus with a personality by obtaining information regarding user communication with a device, processing that information to obtain data usable by a robotic apparatus to convey a personality and modifying the robotic apparatus so as to provide it with a personality. The data processing involved in this invention involves sending the communication information to a cloud computing server to analyze characters, word choice and sentence structure related to the communication between the user and a device. According to the invention’s description, this innovative system could be used to imbue a robot with the personality of a variety of real-world people, such as celebrities or the robot’s owner, and not just deceased loved ones, although that possibility is mentioned.

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The robot architecture of this invention includes various computing hardware, like a memory and sensors, and has wheels, motors and other actuating equipment allowing the robot to interact with its environment. The data sent by the robot to the cloud architecture helps to determine the context within which the robot is operating; a camera feed, for example, could be used to determine the robot’s location or the weather, among other things. A person could instruct a robot to take on a personality by speaking a command such as “be Mom.” If the persona for Mom is stored in the robotic architecture, then it is loaded. If not, the processor of the robotic architecture analyzes data from user devices to identify text messages and recordings associated with Mom. Essentially, the robot could analyze any recorded media involving a person to construct and replicate that person’s identity, right down to their word choices.

Claim 1 of of the ‘429 patent protects:

A method for providing a robot apparatus with a personality, the method comprising: obtaining, by a first device associated with a robotic apparatus, information from a second device, wherein the information relates to communication between a user and the second device containing personification indicators, and wherein the first device is configured to interact with the user; in response to obtaining the information, the first device processing that information to obtain data usable to modify the robotic apparatus so as to provide the robotic apparatus with a personality, wherein processing comprises accessing a cloud computing system and analyzing one or more data of the information selected from the group of (i) characters, (ii) word-choice, and (iii) sentence structure relating to the communication between the user and the second device; and based on the data, the first device modifying the robotic apparatus so as to provide the robotic apparatus with a personality.

It is also interesting to note that claims 17 and 18 both protect a non-transitory computer-readable medium. In the aftermath of Alice v. CLS Bank these types of claims have been in question because this is one formulaic way to protect software. Again, we see that software not associated with financial services, or with performing long standing real world functions, continues to be allowed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In any event, claim 17, which is an independent claim, protects the following:

A non-transitory computer-readable medium having stored therein instructions that when executed by a computing apparatus, cause the computing apparatus to perform a method for providing a robot apparatus with personification attributes, the method comprising: obtaining information, as from a device, wherein the information relates to communication between a user and the device, and wherein the computing apparatus is configured to interact with the user; accessing a cloud computing system and analyzing, within the information, one or more data selected from the group of (i) characters, (ii) word-choice, and (iii) sentence structure to obtain data usable to modify the computing apparatus so as to provide the computing apparatus with a personality; and in response, estimating a personality for the computing apparatus; and based on the estimated personality, modifying the computing apparatus to incorporate the estimated personality.

We’ve covered advances in robotics technologies here on IPWatchdog in recent months and we’ve noticed that innovations in this sector are often wrought with a lot of consumer uncertainty and even fears. Those concerns will only be exacerbated as robotic developments continue. A report recently issued jointly by Harvard Law School and Human Rights Watch calls on governments all over the world to ban autonomous weaponry. Drones have already been in use by the American military for some time now but other type of attack robots have been developed. Namiki Laboratory in Japan recently developed a robot that is capable of wielding a sword-like instrument effectively as a defensive weapon. Researchers at China’s Tsinghua University have created a shape-shifting liquid metal alloy which have prompted many to wonder whether robots that can liquefy à la Terminator may be a part of our future.

google-personality-robot-4If Google has shown any patterns in its intellectual property development, it’s a willingness to jump headfirst into the hot trends that form in the consumer tech industry. We pointed out Google’s acquisition of Softcard above, occurring right in the midst of the growing digital wallet revolution involving Samsung and Apple. The Google Glass computing eyewear gadget captured a great deal of attention in the mainstream press right at the very beginning of the wearable revolution.

In recent months, Google has been earning some notoriety for its development of home automation technologies. The company made a huge investment in the field when it purchased Nest Labs, a home automation company which was notable for its creation of a remotely-controlled thermostat, for the price of $3.2 billion. Others have pointed out patent applications filed by Google that show the corporation’s interest in creating a range of home automation technologies, this particular case relating to remote garage door openers.

As we keep pointing out here at IPWatchdog, Google’s activities in research and development are surprisingly diverse. Google’s investment into artificial intelligence, including those technologies utilized by its own robots, has led it to create an AI system that just plays video games for hours on end and learns how to win those games. A Google medical facility where the company employed more than 100 doctors and scientists is responsible for the development of a fake skin product that is useful for testing a wearable gadget that can detect cancer. The company has even spent more than a million dollars on it’s private Cultural Institute, where Google employees are working on technologies that would enable citizen curation of art exhibits. Although we cannot be sure where the near future of Google innovation will take that company, you can bet that we’ll be noting the more unique and outlandish developments coming from this giant of technological innovation here on IPWatchdog.

The Author

Gene Quinn & Steve Brachmann

Gene Quinn & Steve Brachmann   

Gene Quinn is a patent attorney and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney licensed to practice before the United States Patent Office and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. You can contact Gene via e-mail.

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than seven years. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 3 Comments comments.

  1. Amnon M Cohen April 14, 2015 11:17 am

    So stupid, because they seem to develop A Copy of A Character only while my invention “Merges the Human Mind with the Electronic Brain” the actual goal of the industry which it has failed to deliver yet.
    Please note, all natural languages, and the code needed for the task, are the key — not just collection of facts and maybe no truth of A Character or A Persona will do more then an electric drill can do, on its own… Hahauhauh Google, I keep giggling about your ignoring real inventors by your arrogance.

  2. angry dude April 14, 2015 1:02 pm

    “I don’t know about you people, but I don’t want to live in a world where
    someone else makes the world a better place better than we do”

    Hooli (aka Google) CEO (now suing Pied Piper after stealing their tech)
    HBO’s Silicon Valley Season 2

  3. Benny April 15, 2015 5:08 am

    The concept (but not the implementation, of course) is from Douglas Adams’ book, ” The hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy”, where he describes robots with “real people personalities”. One of the characters was the robot Marvin – “I’m a personality prototype – you can tell, can’t you?”