An iPhone shield and a keyboard in the palm of your hand: Big tech’s craziest ideas | Science & Tech

Patent registration shows the manufacturers’ enormous efforts to innovate, but the ideas included in them do not always translate into products on the market. There are things that remain in the pipeline for various reasons and never get permission to be produced and marketed. The e-commerce company Simple Ghar has summarized some of the ideas – which fall somewhere between the transgressive and the innovative – that the big tech companies decided to patent, but decided not to sell.

Imagine dropping your mobile phone on the ground, but know for sure that the screen will remain undamaged, not because of its resistance, but because it has an innovative shield. This is the idea behind the iShield, a curious patent that Apple has registered; the iShield has sensors and prevents disaster in the event of a mobile phone falling to the ground. The principle of the system is similar to the one behind airbags in cars: a sensor detects the free fall of an iPhone, and when this happens, four ‘legs’ – which are hidden at the edges of the screen – are deployed, which prevents the screen from touching the ground on impact.

Unfortunately, this seemingly brilliant idea, along with the rest of the proposals described below, never saw the light of day. That’s because companies usually file multiple patents, but only a few are ever on the market as a product.

“There is a big difference between patents and the real world,” explains Alex Barredo, the creator of the popular Mixx.io technology podcast. “In many cases, a final product not only requires dozens or hundreds of patents filed at various stages; it also needs to license other patents,” he says.

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Ultimately, a patent is just an idea on paper; it was developed in the isolation of a laboratory or department. After that, the production, cost and commercial departments of the company start working to transform a dream into reality, and they evaluate whether the product can be monetized or not. According to Barredo, “the main reasons for a negative assessment are the cost, required investment, deviation from other businesses, or even a contraindication for [the company’s] current business.”

“Patents give us a clue about where manufacturers are going,” explains Fran Besora, the founder of Apple’s Spanish Twitter community. Besora notes that Apple “already patented a folding screen for the iPhone.” While patents provide hints of what is to come, there is no guarantee that the products mentioned in them will be successful, although they help us to introduce truly innovative products.

Perfect video calls and a “flying” camera for Zoom meetings

For example, Facebook filed patent US16/120,715, which mentions a pocket video camera that, when connected, levitates on its axis to deliver the perfect shot. Due to the increase in teleworking, Zoom and similar video meetings have spread, and it is not always easy to find a good place to record an acceptable image of the camera.

Lighting or framing can be a problem, not to mention the need to stay still until the video call is over. Facebook’s camera eliminates these issues. It has a magnetic field that is activated when the camera is turned on, and it follows the user’s movements wherever they go, so that they are always in the center of the frame.

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A screen is unnecessary; just use your hand

Google has long flirted with the idea of ​​smart glasses, which offer users a huge added value. The famous glasses came to an end and were considered a product ahead of its time. However, it seems the California-based company hasn’t given up on that idea just yet; Google has a patent for glasses that project a touchscreen onto the user’s palm.

Google's PalmReader projects a virtual keyboard onto a user's hand.
Google’s PalmReader projects a virtual keyboard onto a user’s hand.

Imagine we receive a WhatsApp message and want to answer it quickly without taking our cell phone out of our pocket: Google’s patent US14/735,398 allows us to answer the message by projecting a keyboard onto the palm of our hand as we respond with the other hand . Although the aforementioned patent is limited to the virtual keyboard, one imagines that Google’s plans for the smart glasses will go much further.

Smart contact lenses

Who doesn’t remember the Terminator? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg killer robot had a vision system that projected more information than the retina could capture. Samsung has come up with contact lenses that, when connected wirelessly to a cell phone, provide users with all kinds of information about what appears right in front of their eyes.

For example, if you look at a dog, the contact lenses will record the scene, send it to the mobile phone and from there send it back to the contact lenses, which will project additional information in your eyes, such as the breed of the dog, weight, and so on. In short, the product was an evolved version of Google Glasses but in the form of contact lenses.

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Samsung's smart contact lenses.
Samsung’s smart contact lenses.

Patents are just the tip of the iceberg in the overall creative process of the technology world and behind the scenes work. Whether a product subsequently sees the light of day depends on the strategic and economic criteria of a company. But such formulas are not always reliable.

For example, Apple hit the nail on the head in 1993 with its famous Newton, a predecessor of the iPad, which simply arrived too early. The mobile device was a sales flop, but that doesn’t mean it should be considered a total failure: “Without experimentation, there is no success,” says Barredo.

Something similar is happening with Microsoft with Windows 8, an innovative version of the platform that is now celebrating its tenth anniversary. This version of Windows incorporated a real revolution in the interface, which was called Metro and featured live ‘windows’ that updated in real time (referred to as ‘Tiles’). But they were a resounding failure, and no one liked them. What for? “It was too radical a change [and it] came too soon,” Steven Sinofsky admitted somewhat bitterly. Metro in Windows 8 worked very well, but the market was not yet ready for this change.

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