Categories
GeekWire

Amazon’s perfect patent: A data-server drone

Drone visualization
This computer visualization shows the airflow for NASA’s modified design of a complete DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter configuration in hover mode. (NASA Ames Graphic / Patricia Ventura Diaz)

Amazon is well-known for developing delivery drones, and for delivering data through Amazon Web Services — so it had to be only a matter of time before someone at Amazon came up with the idea of delivering data via drones.

Actually, Abdul Sathar Sait came up with the idea back in 2014, when he was a principal product manager at AWS. And although he has since moved on to Oracle Cloud, Amazon officially has the patent as of today.

The patent application for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Data Services” describes a system by which network users can put in an order for enhanced data services, and have a drone flown out to the user’s location to provide those services.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Amazon patent for a safety cage stirs up a buzz

Human transport device
Diagrams show the design of a proposed human transport device, as seen from the side at left and from the top at right. The patented concept was never turned into an actual device. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO).

Warehouse workers confined in cages? That’s the dark vision evoked by an essay delving into the worries that come along with the development of artificial-intelligence devices such as the Amazon Echo speaker.

“Anatomy of an AI System” was published on Friday by the AI Now Institute and Share Lab — and it’s already gotten a rise from the executive in charge of Amazon’s distribution system, who says the cage concept never ended up being used.

The 7,300-word essay was written by Kate Crawford, who is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research as well as co-founder and co-director of New York University’s AI Now Institute; and Vladan Joler, director of the Share Foundation and a professor at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Patents issued for Amazon Go’s smart shelves

Amazon Go shelves
Sensors are built into the shelves at Amazon Go stores. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Amazon has just opened a third Seattle location that makes use of its cashierless Amazon Go grocery shopping concept — and it’s just received the latest patent for technologies that make the concept work.

Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the patent for shelves with integrated electronics, including the on-the-shelf weight sensors that are part of the inventory monitoring system in Amazon Go stores.

“Smart shelves” have been the subject of other Amazon patent applications, including a patent granted in June that’s similar to the one published today. Both applications were filed three years ago.

The patents suggest that when the applications were written, the system was designed for inventory control in storage facilities such as Amazon’s fulfillment centers. The applications also cover use of the technology in consumer retail facilities, however.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Amazon patents robot that tosses warehouse items

Robotic tossing machine
A diagram from Amazon’s patent application shows robotic arms coordinating their movements to toss a dwarf figurine, a mug and a rubber ducky into designated warehouse bins. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Robots are nothing new for Amazon’s fulfillment centers, but a newly issued Amazon patent envisions robots that could toss items around those centers.

The 27-page patent, published July 17, describes robotic arms or manipulators that can use sensors to identify objects, figure out how best to grab onto them, calculate the required trajectories and fling the objects into chutes or bins.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Amazon patents messaging system for drones

Drone signal system
A diagram shows a drone projecting squares of light labeled “Yes” or “No.” Depending on which box the package recipient stands in, the drone could determine whether or not to leave a package in the drop zone designated as DZ. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

For an earlier generation, one of the sweetest sounds of summer was the music coming from an ice-cream truck. For the next generation, will it be the tune of a delivery drone?

That’s just one of the possibilities covered in a patent issued to Amazon today: It addresses methods by which a drone could signal its approach, as well as techniques for signaling back.

The application was filed by a group of Seattle-area inventors on Amazon’s behalf almost two years ago.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Apple concept could turn cars into zombie-killers

Zombie Road Highway
How about playing a game like Zombie Road Highway in virtual reality while you’re riding in a self-driving car? Now there’s a patent application for that. (Dawn Studio Illustration)

Running over virtual zombies might seem like a strange way to fight motion sickness in a moving car, but that’s exactly what Apple is suggesting passengers do in patent applications published today.

The applications, filed last September, aren’t focused on zombies per se. They merely suggest how a virtual-reality or augmented-reality system, complete with headset, could help counter that queasy feeling some folks get when they’re riding.

“Vehicle motions may be integrated into the virtual experiences to help prevent motion sickness,” the inventors explain. They even suggest adding physical effects, ranging from surround-sound audio to the rush of hot or cold breezes through the car’s vents.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Why Walmart wants to patent robot bees

Robot bees
Robotic bees were the subject of a dystopian video four years ago. (Greenpeace via YouTube)

Robot bees have hit the big time.

In the 10 days since Walmart’s patent application for “systems and methods for pollinating crops via unmanned vehicles” came to light, the idea of building drones to do what bees do has gone viral.

The piece de resistance came on “Saturday Night Live” when Walmart’s concept got a mention on “Weekend Update” (around the 6:30 mark in this video clip).

“What is Walmart now?” comedian Colin Jost asked. “It’s a department store that became a grocery store, and a firearms dealer, and now they’re just building an army of robot bees?

“I miss the good old days, when Walmart was just a place where I saw my third-grade teacher punch a greeter on Black Friday,” he said.

CB Insights says the patent application is one of six that Walmart filed for farm automation applications, including crop monitoring, pest identification and pesticide spraying.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

APP airbag could protect drone-dropped deliveries

APP airbag
A diagram from Amazon’s patent application shows a delivery drone dropping a package protected by an airbag. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Seven years after Jeff Bezos had the idea of putting an airbag on your smartphone, Amazon’s inventors have kicked it up a notch by patenting a drone-mounted system that inflates an airbag around your package just before it’s dropped off for delivery.

The inventors behind the new patent, published today, may not be as well-known as Amazon’s billionaire CEO, but they’re notable: One is Gur Kimchi, the Amazon VP in charge of the drone delivery program at Prime Air. The other is Avi Bar-zeev, who’s been involved in projects ranging from Microsoft HoloLens to Google Earth. He left Amazon after the patent application was filed in 2015 and is now at Apple.

The system they describe features an airlift package protection airbag, or APP airbag, that would be wrapped around a package that’s due to go out on a drone for delivery.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Amazon patent suggests robots can service servers

Mobile robots
This simplified version of a patent-application diagram shows robots checking a set of computer server racks. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Does something need checking out in your data center? Before you send out a technician, why not send out a robot?

That’s the upshot of a newly published Amazon patent for mobile robots that are designed to respond to the report of a glitch, check out the computer server that may be having an issue, hook into it if necessary and gather data for a fix.

The system, described in an application that was filed back in 2014, even calls for having the machine use its robotic manipulator to pull out a suspect part and install a replacement if need be.

There’s no sign that Amazon Web Services already has robotic IT workers on the job, servicing the hundreds of thousands of computer servers it has in data centers around the globe. Plenty of patents never get implemented, and Amazon didn’t immediately respond to GeekWire’s emailed inquiry about its intentions.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Wireless wristbands could track warehouse workers

Ultrasonic wristbands
A diagram shows how an ultrasonic wristband can track a warehouse worker’s position in relation to a given inventory bin. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Amazon has been issued a pair of patents for a wristband system that monitors whether warehouse workers are putting their hands in the right places.

The patents, published today, cover bracelets that could emit ultrasonic sound pulses or radio transmissions to let a receiver system get a fix on where the workers’ hands are, in relation to an array of inventory bins.

Amazon doesn’t typically comment on its patents, but if the technology makes economic sense, it could conceivably be picked up for use in the Seattle-based online retailer’s hundreds of fulfillment centers.

This isn’t the first time the concept has come to light: When the applications for the patents were published last fall, there was a spate of stories about “buzzing wristbands that bosses can use to track workers and order them around.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.