While self-driving technology should one day help to eliminate most kinds of collisions, there will still be instances where the sudden coming together of car and object will be unavoidable. For example, when someone rushes into the road from a spot unseen by the vehicle's sensors, the autonomous car may have too little distance in which to stop to avoid a collision. In such a case, the technology needs to decide if it's safe to swerve out of the way or simply apply the brakes and brace for impact. Google spinoff Waymo has been thinking a lot about how best to deal with such situations. As it continues to improve its sensor technology to help its vehicle understand its surroundings and respond quickly and safely to unfolding events, it's also been considering how to deal with unavoidable collisions, whether it's with a "soft" human that could easily sustain an injury, or a harder object like another vehicle.
Looking to ever expand ways to deliver goods to its customers, Amazon has patented a way to allow its drones to deliver packages without ever having to land. The patent would not only provide a safe distance between the UAVs and the people receiving the packages, but also cut down on noise pollution, BizJournals noted. Bezos, now the world's third-richest man with an estimated fortune of $83.3 billion according to Forbes, first showed off Amazon's drone delivery unit in a Dec. 2013 interview on "60 Minutes." It recently filed patents for a beehive-like structure that would allow drones to pick up and drop off packages.
The next time you're strolling through a Walt Disney theme park, your snugly hug or photo with your favorite character may be with a super realistic robot-- and not a person in a costume. Disney Enterprises Inc. announced it has filed a U.S. patent for a 3D printed, interactive, soft robot. The application describes the new "soft body" robot to be built specifically for "physical interaction with humans." Disney has a dedicated robotics research department, which is currently developing several projects designed to create a "future in which robots interact with humans in complex, unpredictable environments." If thoughts of a sci-fi world where sentient Disney characters take over the planet and wipe out humanity crossed your mind, fear not, the patent details the robots will actually be operated via a romote controlled device.
Tired of searching far-flung corners of a big box retail store for that item you want? Walmart may have a high-tech solution – the retail giant has filed a patent to use drones within its stores. The patent application describes "dispatching an airborne drone to an item located within a retail shopping facility, securing that item of inventory to the airborne drone, and then directing the airborne drone to carry the item of inventory to a delivery area located within the retail shopping area." As for the safety of customers when drones are buzzing around a busy store, the patent explains that the flying robots' flightpath will not include any open space. Sensors and 3D map technology will be used to ensure that drones keep to their designated space, according to the patent, which adds that the flightpath could be configured to largely avoid aisles between product display shelving.
Apple has been awarded a new patent for facial-recognition technology that has stoked flames the company might be planning to integrate it into the iPhone 8 and Apple Car technology. The patent, called "Enhanced face detection using depth information," describes a method by which a device's built-in camera would capture a depth map and places a window frame over each face. Using the depth information it's already mapped, the technology in the patent, which was earlier reported on by AppleInsider, would scale each face to accurately depict how far away or close people are in the frame. Interestingly, the technology was invented by Primesense, the company that created Microsoft's original Kinect and Apple subsequently acquired in 2013. While Apple files for patents all the time on technologies that might or might not make their way to its devices, this one describes in detail a feature that the rumor mill has been churning out about Apple's iPhone 8. Specifically, rumors have said that Apple wants to deliver a high-end front camera in its iPhone 8 that would feature 3D-sensing capabilities similar to what's described in the patent.
Besides government regulations, bad weather, weight restrictions, and all the other issues that plague Amazon's budding drone delivery service, the company must also face the prospect of thieves shooting down drones to steal their packages. It's a problem that Amazon has been working on since at least 2014, when it filed a patent for "countermeasures" to protect drones against everything from gunshots to hackers breaching its navigation software. The patent was approved last week, GeekWire reported, offering insight into how Amazon intends to safeguard drone-borne packages of the future. The patent describes two main lines of defense for the drones. The first are electronic systems designed to detect signal jammers or other hacking attempts, including a backup communications interface if the primary one is compromised.
You've wanted to engage in a lightsaber duel ever since you saw your first "Star Wars" film. Soon that fantasy could come to life -- minus, thankfully, the whole severed hand thing -- if a patent application filed by Disney Enterprises turns out to be what it appears to be. Disney is building 14-acre Star Wars theme parks at Disney World and Disneyland, and its application last month for an "Audience Interaction Projection System" suggests that it plans to give visitors to the new parks a chance to operate what will look, feel and behave like real-life lightsabers. Exactly how they'll work is described in the patent's abstract: "A process and system capture infrared light that is reflected or emitted from a device to precisely locate the device. The process and system project visible light from a light source toward the device such that the light is precisely targeted at the device.
Amazon's Prime Air drone delivery service, if it ever gets off the ground, could one day use the top of street lights, cell towers, and even church steeples as docking stations for its flying machine. The stations would serve as charging points for the drones, enabling them to stop off at multiple points for a battery boost thereby giving them a much greater flying range. Such a system could, in theory, open up pretty much the whole of the country to the possibility of drone delivery, as a single drone could hop from point to point on its way to an address. The docking stations could also shelter the drones from harsh weather conditions that may develop after they leave the distribution center to begin their delivery run. The new ideas are outlined in a patent awarded this month by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under the title, "Multi-use UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) docking station systems and methods."