PATENT DROP: Google's AI wants to do it all
Plus: Inside Snap’s AI play; Amazon’s secret keeper
Happy Monday and welcome to Patent Drop!
Today, we’re taking a look at a few patent filings from Google that could use AI to enable anyone to be a UX designer or app developer – no experience necessary. Plus, we’ll dive into the nuts and bolts of Snap’s AI integration, and tech from Amazon that will keep your secrets between you and your Alexa.
But first, a quick word from our sponsor, Dolcera. As one of the world’s largest patent analytics companies, Dolcera is right up our alley. With a team of 150 subject matter experts, Dolcera applies machine learning to analyze IP and provide insight to decision makers working with Qualcomm, Microsoft, Google and others. Check out Dolcera’s IP ChatGPT right here.
Let's hit it.
#1. Google, the multi-hyphenate
Google wants to make web development as simple as sending a text.
The search giant is seeking to patent tech for creating a user interface using AI. Basically, this system trains machine learning models on user interfaces, graphical elements and natural language descriptions, so that the model can generate graphical user interfaces using textual descriptions that “describe the high-level design goal.”
For example, if you tell the model you want it to create a login page with a certain amount of text boxes, pop-ups or buttons, the model can generate a mockup through just a basic description. The tech in Google’s patent essentially could allow anyone to do the basics of UX design with little to no training.
“The conventional approaches of GUI development (are) time and resource consuming,” Google said in its filing. “Automation saves both time and resources when compared to existing techniques.”
Want to take it a step beyond UX? Google has a plan for that too. The company is seeking to patent a system for programming and publishing apps using natural language descriptions. Basically, a user writes a detailed description of the app’s function and the entities involved, which can then be translated into a “viable running app.” Google noted that this process can be “iterative and/or incremental,” meaning once you have an initial description, you can add more detail to flesh it out further and can publish the app at any point in the process.
Another consideration: Google mentioned that this system isn’t limited to just app generation, and can be applied to a “wide variety of other software applications.”
Google has been burning the candle at both ends on AI work, and it hasn’t necessarily been quiet about it. In March, the company announced major AI integrations throughout the Google Workspace suite, which includes automated email composition and document summarizing. It has also touted plans to enhance its flagship search engine with AI. Last week, Google merged its two major AI divisions, DeepMind and the Brain Team, into a single entity called Google DeepMind led by Demis Hassabis, as it gears up to “significantly accelerate” its AI progress.
These patent filings give us a look at how Google may be thinking about its grand AI vision, and a peek at what might be next: A tool that can not only assist you with small tasks, but design and generate entire platforms for you.
That said, Google has some competition, Jake Maymar, VP of Innovation at The Glimpse Group, told me. The company may be moving so quickly as a way to remain on top as competitors like Microsoft push ahead in the AI race. “With OpenAI, Microsoft and other companies entering the market, Google is now a little bit on shaky ground,” Maymar noted.
But let's look away from the business of it all for a moment. Google patenting these web development tools underscores the most poignant question that the tech presents: Whether or not a machine can do the job of a human just as well as a human can.
If you’ve gone on LinkedIn at all over the past few months, you’ve probably seen at least one person post the phrase “AI will not take your job, but a person who uses AI will.” While this is likely true, the implications are potentially far greater than many realize, said Maymar: “Everyone will have to pivot. I don’t really think you’re going to have a choice.”
“This is a watershed moment,” said Maymar. “AI is a new way of life, just like when computers were introduced. But AI is even more different from that because it moves at an exponential rate.”
#2. Snap’s sleeping dragon
Snap wants to keep up with the AI heavyweights by giving itself some truth.
First up, Snap wants to patent tech for “generating ground truths,” or information that is known to be true, for machine learning models. Here’s how Snap’s tech works: First, a 3D model is developed by a “messaging system” (a.k.a., Snapchat), and the other is generated by a machine learning model based on images of the first one. The two models then are compared to see if the machine learning-generated one is accurate to the original. If changes to the image inputs are given to the AI model, rather than creating a new 3D model entirely, those changes are reflected in the AI-generated one.
While this sounds esoteric, this tech essentially makes AR model generation a much smoother process with better results. The ability to generate a ground truth “enables application developers to develop robust image processing applications without spending a prohibitive amount of time developing the ground truth,” Snap noted in the filing.
Snap also filed a patent for integrating machine learning into “augmented reality content items.” This essentially uses machine learning to generate customized “image augmentations,” using AR objects, like filters.
However, what’s interesting to consider about this patent is that nothing described in it is novel or new, Glimpse’s Jake Maymar noted. While this filing is from September of last year, the technologies that are outlined in it have not only been worked on and integrated by Snap for years now but are fundamental in the development of AR.
Snap hasn’t been entirely quiet on all the AI buzz either. Just last week, the company announced at its Snap Partner Summit that its AI chatbot would be free for all global users. Soon, the chatbot will have the ability to respond with “generative” visual Snapchats back, rather than just messages. However, much of Snap’s AI work, including the tech in these patents, plays into its larger bets on AR.
The company has staked much of its future on AR-related tech, from product development within its Lens studio to its persistent work on wearables like its AR Spectacles.
Maymar told me he sees Snap as a “sleeping dragon” in the AR and AI sectors: While the company isn’t always seen as a key player in either space the same way that Big Tech firms like Google or Meta are, the company has spent more than a decade building a loyal user base and now has more than 250 million that interact with its AR content on its platform regularly.
With its success in the consumer space, Snap branched into enterprise offerings with a new AR Enterprise Services division, which debuted in late March, to help businesses build their own AR tools.
“It's, in my opinion, the successful version of consumer AR,” Maymar said. “That's why I say it's a sleeping dragon. Even though it feels like a toy, it's being used a lot, it's generating revenue, and it doesn't seem like it'd be too hard to flip that switch and make it enterprise.”
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#3. Amazon’s vocal vault
No one needs to know what things are said between you and your Alexa in the privacy of your home. Amazon agrees.
The company filed a patent for “sensitive data control” for its smart speaker. Essentially, this system keeps users’ private, confidential or otherwise personal data safe by requiring an “authentication input,” including “voice recognition, facial recognition, fingerprint authentication, retinal scan, other types of biometric identifications, pin/password,” or others, for a user to access it. This way, your personal information is broadcasted just for you, rather than everyone at your annual family reunion.
If the smart speaker has sensitive data to share, this could be presented to the user audibly without actually sharing the sensitive data, such as saying “you have a notification,” or sent as a message to a user’s smartphone. Then, once authenticated, the user would be able to hear the message, or if preferred, simply read it on their smartphone.
For instance, if you have your medical or prescription information connected to your Alexa, rather than saying aloud “Your asthma medication is ready for pickup at the pharmacy,” this system will say “You have a medical notification. Please provide your authentication to receive it.” The user would then give a face scan on their phone, say a certain passphrase to authenticate their voice, or verify themselves in some other way, to receive their information.
“In some cases, the user may not want other persons to know certain information that may be included in an output,” Amazon said in its filing. “ For example, the user may not want a communal, smart speaker device to simply make an announcement, for all who are nearby to hear, when a medical prescription is ready for pickup.”
Smart speaker developers are taking an interest in preserving user privacy. Amazon’s tech follows a similar logic to that of a recent filing from Google which laid out a family-friendly smart speaker that memorizes the voices of everyone in your household, aiming to keep personal information away from nosy house guests or young and inquisitive kids.
Plus, this is far from the first time we’ve seen Amazon dig into speech recognition innovations: The company practically has a chokehold on the smart speaker market, and has filed patent applications for everything from sentiment recognition to a potential Alexa-Roomba hybrid.
However, this patent references medical data as its main example of confidential information throughout. While you typically wouldn’t think of Alexa when you think of things like prescriptions or doctors' appointments, Amazon is very interested in growing its power in the healthcare industry.
In its biggest step to gain footing, the company completed its $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical in late February, gaining access to a customer base of more than 800,000 subscribers. Neil Lindsay, senior VP of Amazon Health Services, said in a statement on the acquisition news that the company is “On a mission to make it dramatically easier for people to find, choose, afford, and engage with the services, products, and professionals they need to get and stay healthy, and coming together with One Medical is a big step on that journey.”
With the deal closed, don’t be surprised if One Medical subscribers’ data, like appointment times, prescriptions, or test results, can be accessed through their Alexas. At least with the tech in this patent, you can make sure your Tinder date doesn’t accidentally hear all about your prescription rash cream ready to be picked up at CVS.
Some other fun patents we wanted to share.
Microsoft and Baidu both want to read your photos. The companies both filed to patent some version of text recognition in images, with Microsoft looking specifically for “quotations” and Baidu looking at text in images more generally.
Sony wants to change your POV. The company wants to patent a method for “changing viewpoint in a virtual space,” which does exactly as the name conveys: allows the user to automatically switch to any point of view in a VR environment.
Adobe wants to cast a long shadow. The company is looking to patent a method for “generating shadows” for digital objects, which generates a height map using neural networks to determine their size.
What else is new?
Disney started a second round of layoffs, bringing its total cuts to around 4,000 employees. The company plans to cut a total of 7,000 this year to recoup losses from its streaming sector
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, received a compensation of more than $200 million in 2022, including almost $6 million in personal security costs.
Apple’s highly anticipated VR headset will reportedly be compatible with hundreds of thousands of iPad apps. The headset is expected to debut in June at Apple’s annual WWDC event.
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