Global tech company IBM has patented a drone system which employs cameras and biometric sensors to deliver coffee to people it has identified as looking tired. The patent description refers to office staff deemed to be in a needy ‘cognitive state’, who can then receive a caffeine boost lowered from a hovering drone via an ‘unspooling string’.
It’s by no means unusual for companies in the technology sector to patent products they may have no immediate plans to sell – and IBM is keeping the cards close to its chest on any future plans it may have to introduce an airborne beverage facility. The IBM patent has been lodged with the US patent office, a procedure which itself costs some thousands of dollars.
Caffeine boost delivered on the fly
Patent schematic diagrams depict several versions of the flying coffee dispenser. For instance, one option shows hot coffee pouring from a drone dispenser straight into a grateful worker’s mug. In other examples, office executives can gesture to ‘hail’ a passing drone delivery (taxi style), with all drinks carried inside a protective sealed bag to minimise drips and avoid risks such as scalding coffee pouring down on to humans if two drones should happen to be involved in a mid-air collision.
The patent filing contained plenty of detail about the methodology behind flying coffee-laden drones within ‘an area including a plurality of people; scanning the people, using one or more sensors connected to the UAV [drone], the one or more sensors connected to an electronic processing circuit which identifies an individual among the people that may have a predetermined cognitive state.’
This means IBM coffee drones could hover in offices gathering and evaluating technologically acquired data about your facial expressions, body language, blood pressure and the dilation of your pupils. That biometric data could then be merged with information about ‘the time an individual woke up in the morning’ as well as your personal work calendar. All this information could then be analysed in the context of the time of day to assess whether you might be drowsy and in need of a stimulating boost.
All this shows just how many drone applications there are. You can even bet on drone races, but perhaps its easier to stick with your favourite classics and play some casino online games.
IBM are reported to be reluctant to discuss the commercial potential of this coffee-delivering technology which uses hardware deployed by “artificial intelligence.” However, Thomas Erickson, the lead inventor on the patent, who has since retired, still has some doubts about the effectiveness of artificial intelligence on its own. He believes it’s more likely that advances of greater importance will flow from the ability to ‘tap the knowledge and intelligence distributed among humans.’
Undisputed patent kings
Once a market leader in desktops and mainframe computers, IBM’s focus now extends to include software and artificial intelligence. Between 1993 and 2017, the tech giant has registered 105,000 patents of ideas, and has regularly remained the organisation registering the most patents for the last 25 years. Last year, for example, IBM secured a total of 9,043 patents created by around 8,500 scientists, engineers and developers from 47 different countries. However, it’s important to add that many companies patent ideas which they then choose not to develop further, in order to protect their investment interests if any patent should later appear on the market in a commercial format.