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PATENT DROP: Monetizing the Metaverse
Plus: Nvidia gets conversational; Oracle scrubs your data
Happy Thursday and welcome to Patent Drop!
Today, we’re diving into Meta’s plan to make some cash from its metaverse bet, Nvidia’s tech to make chatbots more conversational, and Oracle’s goal to make your data squeaky clean.
Let's raise the curtain.
#1. Meta’s comeback plan
Meta wants to make the metaverse pay. Literally.
The company is seeking to patent a method for tracking user engagement with content in an artificial reality space. This tech monitors user movement through a virtual reality environment, then displays additional media throughout the space depending on where you are.
Along with placing ads where you move your avatar, this system also tracks engagement with those ads, checking metrics like “minutes of experience,” interaction with the content such as shares or likes, body movement and face gestures during the experience. If you interact with an ad for a certain amount of time, have a certain reaction, or even just move past it slowly enough, this system will pick up on those nuances and feed you similar ads. It’s just like how targeted ads work on its main social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, except more intense.
“Conventionally, typical artificial reality environments fail to provide content and experiences tailored for individual users and/or individual categories of users,” Meta said in its filing.
Meta also noted that this tech can improve the function of the device itself, as its techniques improve “processing and efficiency” of tracking metaverse engagement.
To be frank, this is probably the least surprising move Meta could have made. The company has filed patent after patent for tech to continually improve its metaverse, throwing darts at everything from eye-tracking tech to digital floor plans of our home. It’s also recently sought to patent tech to hyper-personalize its ads, following a similar vein of closely monitoring user activity to deliver just the right content, and could be integrated into a metaverse environment the same way it’s applied to Instagram or Facebook.
It makes sense why Meta wants to siphon more money from its metaverse bet. The company spent $13.7 billion on building AR and VR technologies in 2022. Now, even amid what Mark Zuckerberg has deemed the company’s “Year of Efficiency,” the tech has remained one of Meta’s top priorities.
Plus, the company makes the lion's share of its revenue from digital advertising – more than $28 billion in the first quarter to be exact – whereas Reality Labs, its unit that works on metaverse tech, only brought in $339 million, down more than 50 percent from the same quarter last year, the company reported yesterday.
Meta itself admitted that a built-out metaverse is far out on the horizon. The company’s Head of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said last month that the company’s vision is “going to take a while.” This patent may be the company looking for ways to get some cash flow out of its investment while it waits.
But Meta has run into quite a bit of hot water for its advertising practices. In January, the company faced a $414 million fine in Europe after regulators that deemed the company had practically forced users to accept personalized ads unlawfully. Meanwhile, in the U.S., a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to break up the digital ad duopoly that Google and Meta hold with the AMERICA Act. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) claims in the legislation that the companies exploit their mountains of personal data to “obtain vice grip-like control over digital advertising.”
Suffice it to say, if Meta does want to monetize its metaverse with hyper-personal ads, it may face more than a few obstacles in doing so.
#2. Nvidia’s conversation starter
Nvidia wants to build a chatbot for all seasons.
The company wants to patent a conversational AI platform that combines both closed and open domain styles of dialogs. For reference: A closed domain chatbot can only understand certain topics, while an open domain one is built to understand any kind of conversation, each one coming with its own pros and cons.
Nvidia’s invention relies on bringing those pros and cons together, analyzing the textual input and routing it to whichever style of domain makes the most sense, housing both domains into a single “intelligent dialog management system” on the user-end.
For instance, say a city integrated a chatbot into its tourism website. If a person asks the chatbot a specific question, such as “Find the top-rated Italian restaurants in the city,” the question will be routed to a closed domain for the topic of restaurants. But if they asked a more open-ended request, like “Tell me about the local music scene” the input would route to an open domain, allowing the chatbot to respond in a more colloquial and casual way. (It’s unclear if it could answer hard-hitting questions like “How do you like spaghetti vongole?”)
Nvidia said this method mitigates the problem of a chatbot or virtual assistant only being able to give broad responses, or very narrow ones. Another point from this filing: the company noted that this tech can apply both to speech and textual inputs, and that the device accepting these commands could be anything from a chatbot to an autonomous vehicle.
“Users often rely on software applications—such as chatbots, virtual assistants, social bots, and other forms of AI— to submit queries and conduct conversations,” Nvidia said in its filing. “However, these software applications generally use dialog systems configured to provide either broad or narrow responses, but not both.”
Nvidia is undoubtedly a leader in the AI sector, specifically in building the hardware and components that are fundamental to building AI. The company reportedly controls 80% of the market for the chips and GPUs that power AI at major tech firms, including OpenAI’s ever-growing ChatGPT. The company far outpaces competitors like AMD and Intel, which hold 20% and less than 1% of the market share, respectively.
That said, Nvidia’s isn’t usually the first company name that many conjure when thinking of AI software offerings themselves. Power players like Google, Microsoft and OpenAI continue to dominate the broader public conversation around AI, specifically chatbots.
By patenting, developing and advancing its conversational AI the company may be trying to branch out and “build an ecosystem,” according to Romeo Alvarez, director and research analyst at William O’Neil. He added that the enterprise AI software market represents a $150 billion opportunity for Nvidia.
“It's probably a factor that most people don't know because they see Nvidia as a GPU company,” said Alvarez. “They're definitely more than that. By also developing AI software platforms, their (total addressable market) expands.”
One other possibility: This tech could be wrapped up in Nvidia’s autonomous vehicles unit. The company noted that this kind of conversational AI could be integrated into several kinds of tech, including a “vehicle display” that utilizes speech recognition. In any case, with the strong standing that Nvidia has in the AI sector, the possibilities are endless.
#3. Oracle’s data janitor
Oracle wants to put your data in its place.
The company is seeking to patent tech that improves data quality using AI. First, the dataset is “processed,” meaning features of each row of data are extracted to create “metadata profiles” that represent them. Then a trained neural network predicts the category of the data based on those profiles.
Essentially, this system can take a “data dump,” or a ton of unstructured or uncategorized data, and organize it into something actually usable. Oracle’s method solves the problem of poor quality data, or data that generally lacks consistency and is difficult to store in a structured database, or gain any useful insight from.
Oracle noted that utilizing AI for this process saves time, effort and resources compared to employing a data scientist to do this task manually.
“Tangible benefits can be derived from data analytics, data management, and general data processing, however the quality of data can create variations in these benefits,” Oracle said in the filing. “At times, poor data quality can limit or even negate the benefits of big data.”
One of the most important places to have high-quality data is – you guessed it – in building AI models. (So yes, Oracle is basically using AI to help make more AI.)
Data is at the center of Oracle’s business. With the company’s main offerings being cloud services and database management, getting into the AI sector – particularly with the tech outlined in this patent – is the right call. As AI development continues at its rapid pace, the need for high-quality data and secure data storage will only grow more critical.
But the company has some stiff competition in the cloud services space, companies like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure remaining dominant. Given that all three of those companies are also quickly ramping up their AI efforts, Oracle’s patent may be part of its plan to keep up.
“Oracle’s definitely lagging from the AI standpoint,” Cornelio Ash, director and equity analyst at William O’Neil. “It’s not an aggressive leader. But at the same time, it does have a large footprint.”
Though Oracle isn’t the largest force in its sector, the company is still a tech behemoth, working with several Fortune 500 and Russell 2000 companies, said Ash. The company’s client roster includes firms like Siemens, Dropbox, Cisco and Zoom. With the growing frenzy and demand around AI development, Oracle can’t afford to fall back.
“It can't be complacent or it’ll lose more market share, or even get completely behind,” Ash added.
Some other fun patents we wanted to share.
Amazon wants to know when you’re frustrated. The company filed a patent application for a “sentiment aware” voice user interface, which changes its actions based on frustrated tones in your voice. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon’s been working on this for a while.)
Google wants to put its AR glasses to the test. The company is looking to patent an “eyewear endurance tester” which tests the “mechanical strength and durability” of a pair of glasses by, essentially, squishing them.
Salesforce wants to help you prove you’re not spam. The company is seeking to patent a process to automate “internet protocol (IP) warming,” which helps a user build up a reputation as being a legitimate email sender.
What else is new?
Dropbox is cutting 500 employees, or 16% of its staff, with CEO Drew Houston blaming slowing growth and the “the AI era of computing.”
U.K. regulators blocked Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The CMA claimed the deal would “reduced innovation and less choice for UK gamers over the years to come.”
Elon Musk met with lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to discuss AI regulation, after Schumer launched an effort to develop a AI framework and reduce its risks.