Many tech reviews have been done about Humane’s Ai Pin which sets out to be “an opportunity for people to take AI with them everywhere and to unlock a new era of personal mobile computing which is seamless, screenless and sensing“.
Check out this short video with a presentation by the co-founders Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno if you haven’t heard of the Ai Pin.
Meanwhile, Humane has filed about two dozen published patent families to protect their competitive edge. Let’s take a look at some of the PCT applications as representative family members:
Early filings on the basic principle, and an idea that didn’t make it into the product
Humane’s earliest patent filing dates back to 10 May 2017 and is about a “wearable multimedia device and cloud computing platform with application ecosystem” (WO 2018/209105 A2). It describes the overall idea of a “lightweight, small form factor, battery-powered device that can be attached to a user’s clothing“. The Ai Pin’s Trust Light is also hinted at in the form of “one or more light indicators to indicate on/off status, power conditions or any other desired status”.
At the same priority date, Humane also filed another patent application for a “system and apparatus for fertility and hormonal cycle awareness” (WO 2018/209087 A1) with a disc-shaped housing, which doesn’t seem to have made it into the Ai Pin.
The Ai Pin was left unprotected at first
The description and drawings of a patent mainly serve to teach the public about the invention, but the scope of protection is defined elsewhere: in the claims.
But strangely enough, the claims of the first WO publication did not capture the Ai Pin at all. Instead, they are directed to the server-side data processing on a cloud computing platform.
See claim 1 of WO 2018/209105 A2:
A method comprising:
receiving, by one or more processors of a cloud computing platform, context data from a wearable multimedia device, the wearable multimedia device including at least one data capture device for capturing the context data;
creating, by the one or more processors, a data processing pipeline with one or more applications based on one or more characteristics of the context data and a user request;
processing, by the one or more processors, the context data through the data processing pipeline; and
sending, by the one or more processors, output of the data processing pipeline to the wearable multimedia device or other device for presentation of the output.
The Laser Ink Display was only an add-on invention
One of the Ai Pin’s most unique features is certainly its Laser Ink Display which projects a user interface onto the user’s palm. The idea is still missing in the first WO publication, which only generically speaks of a “laser projector […] that allows the user to replay a moment on a surface such as a wall or table top”.
Only more than one year later, on 18 June 2019, Humane added this feature in a patent family on a “wearable multimedia device and cloud computing platform with laser projection system” (WO 2020/257506 A1).
On the same day, 18 June 2019, Humane also filed another patent family on the Ai Pin’s attachable battery pack, titled “portable battery pack for wirelessly charging body-worn devices through clothing” (WO 2020/257329 A1).
The patent publication WO 2020/257506 A1 is also the first one in which the actual Ai Pin is claimed. Claim 1 is directed to a “body-worn apparatus” with a camera, a depth sensor and a laser projection system.
One thing that looks slightly odd to me is the wording “body-worn”. I wonder if a Humane competitor would argue non-infringement because the apparatus is “body-worn” only by the customer, but not by the competitor?
Should Humane maybe have directed claim 1 to a “body-wearable apparatus”?
Terminator-like vision didn’t make it into the Ai Pin
Anyone remember the epic bar scene from Terminator?
Seems like Humane had a vision of equipping the user with Terminator-like object detection capabilities, too, as Fig. 9 of WO 2020/257506 A1 suggests:
Taking time after the foundational patent filings
After these foundational patent filings, Humane considerably slowed down their filing activities, filing only three additional applications for the next couple of years:
- Two isolated US patents on a “portable battery pack for wirelessly charging and communicating with portable electronic device through clothing” (US 11,722,013 B1) and on “super resolution/super field of view (FOV) digital photography” (US 11,523,055 B1)
- Another PCT application on “dynamic optical projection with wearable multimedia devices” (WO 2022/261485 A1)
Huge batch of add-on inventions
The next considerable patent applications did not happen until five years after the initial patent filings. But on 4 March 2022, Humane filed a total of twelve (!) patent families on the same day.
The representative family members are:
- WO 2023/168073 A1 “Structuring and presenting event data for use with wearable multimedia devices”
- US 2023/280866 A1 “Laser projected virtual interface”
- WO 2023/168068 A1 “Displaying images using wearable multimedia devices”
- US 2023/280821 A1 “Presenting and aligning laser projected virtual interfaces”
- WO 2023/168076 A1 “Hand-specific laser projected virtual interfaces and operations”
- WO 2023/168065 A1 “Generating, storing, and presenting content based on a memory metric”
- WO 2023/168070 A1 “Laser projected wayfinding interface”
- WO 2023/168071 A1 “Context-sensitive home screens for use with wearable multimedia devices”
- WO 2023/168064 A1 “Composing electronic messages based on speech input”
- WO 2023/168001 A1 “Laser projection on fingernail”
- WO 2023/168096 A1 “Message composition interfaces for use with wearable multimedia devices”
- WO 2023/168094 A1 “Automatic camera exposures for use with wearable multimedia devices”
The titles of these filings reflect Humane’s bet into the future that their palm-projected Laser Ink Display will replace the smartphone screens we’re surrounded by today.
For example, how about having icons projected onto your fingernails to invoke actions by bending or flicking a finger?
Probably more patent filings to come
The early foundational patent filings and the explosive patent filing activity in March 2022 indicate that Humane takes its IP very seriously. I guess it’s fair to assume that more patent filings will follow in the future.
Since patent applications are published only 18 months after the priority date, any applications filed after May 2022 are still invisible today. I’ll certainly put a watch on future patent filings by Humane.
I’ll also take a deeper look at Humane’s European patent applications in an upcoming article. Stay tuned.