‘Creepy’ patent application adds whole new dimension to the connected house
Far from looking to connected everyone on earth with the information they need, it seems Google is also planning to spread its reaches into children’s playtime, reports have found.
Details have emerged of one of the company’s strangest patent applications – for interactive ‘toys’ that would play a central role in controlling smart home appliances.
These would include microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the Internet to allow users to ‘speak’ to the products, as well as monitoring their homes when not present.
First filed three years ago by the company’s notorious X Labs, the patent was spotted by legal technology firm SmartUp, which described the proposal as “one of Google’s creepiest patents yet”.
The patent description would certainly seem to back this up, describing how certain triggers would cause the toys to ‘wake up’ and look towards the person addressing them.
The toys would also be able to check if the person talking was making eye contact, and then speak back to them, and even expressing “human-like” expressions.
“To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head and/or focus its gaze on the user,” the inventor Richard Wayne DeVaul, “director of rapid evaluation and mad science” at Google X, wrote in the application.
“To express curiosity, [it] may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm.”
If a command was executable, the toy would then “interpret the command (via its servers) and map it to a media control device,” the application added.
However a Google spokesperson said it was not certain that this would be an idea the company would continue to develop.
“We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with,” she said.
“Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.”
Google has looked to begin investing in ‘smart homes’ in recent years, most famously with its acquisition of thermostat maker Nest early in 2014, alongside the announcement of APIs and a developer programme as part of its Google’s “Internet of Things” strategy.
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