IBM has patented a delivery system for coffee using airborne drones and complex artificial intelligence software.
The idea taps into the current popularity of drones as well as the company’s existing investments in AI.
In a 7 August filing with the US Patent Office, IBM describes several variations on the system, which could use cameras and biometric sensors to bring coffee to those who request it, perhaps with a gesture.
Alternatively, the drones could be outfitted to identify the “cognitive state” of office workers requiring refreshment, monitoring blood pressure, pupil dialation and facial expressions to judge how groggy they are.
Other factors that could be taken into account include data on potential users’ sleep quality and their meetings schedule.
Data collection could allow drones to learn individuals’ preferences, such as when they prefer drinks delivered and what type of milk to use – with all this information being used “according to privacy rules, and/or with the user’s permission”.
The system could be deployed in an office to keep staff alert or in a coffee shop to increase sales, IBM suggested.
One design would involve a hovering drone dispensing coffee directly into a customer’s cup, while another variant would see beverages lowered down on an “unspooling string”.
The superheated beverages could be sealed in “leak-proof” bags for safety purposes, according to the filing.
IBM describes ways the drone system could interact with the social nature of coffee drinking as a “semi-ritualistic activity”, monitoring how long conversations have been going on and whether they seem calm or animated, to determine the opportune moment to bring caffeine.
Drones could be programmed to recognise people in a group who are “popular” or “famous” and deliver their coffees first.
Artificial intelligence is a major area of research for IBM, with recent innovations including an AI called DeepLocker that could weaponise hacking tools, and a system that was able to hold its own in a public debate with human beings.
After sustained investment in fast-growing fields such as AI, cloud computing and cyber-security, IBM recently returned to revenue growth for the first time since 2012.
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