Saturday, February 27, 2016

Oh, patents! GoldieBlox™ engineer & inventor

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Move over Barbie™, there’s a new superstar in town! Her name is GoldieBlox™!

Designed “for girls who are thinkers that tinker”, the GoldieBlox™ construction story kits are designed to teach engineering and building concepts (i.e. spatial skills) to young girls (7+ years) while banking on girls’ strong verbal and story building skills.

In a world where only 14% of the engineers are women, this toy and its creator, Debbie Sterling, herself a Stanford Mechanical Engineering graduate, are out on a mission! The mission is none other than to level the playing field in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).  Beginning with “disrupting the pink aisle”,  that is, making waves in those sections of toy stores dedicated to princesses and fairies for little little girls, the idea is that little girls might also be introduced to engineering and building at a very early age, so they may learn to love this activity as much as Debbie.

The rest is history!...It took 6 months for Goldieblox™  to sell nationwide at ToyRus! GoldieBlox™ has also won some impressive toy awards: The 2013 Parents Choice Award (Gold Award), two 2014  Toy of the Year Awards (in the People’s Choice & Educational Toy categories) and a place in the 2014 list of Best of Apple Apps. GoldieBlox™ also has 250,000+ followers on Facebook, 20 million + YouTube views, 15 million TV viewers, and 4 billion Media impressions! Hip, hip, hooray for GoldieBlox™!

The GoldieBlox story-construction kits offer a narrative playworld of characters at Bloxtown: Goldie Blox, nicknamed “G”, a mechanical engineer and inventor; Ruby Rails, nicknamed “Rubes”, a software engineer “who lives life by her code” and designs her own clothes with a program called “Dress Code”; Li Gravity, a guy nicknamed “Heights”, who loves physics and who is Goldie’s lifelong friend and neighbor; Valentina Voltz, nicknamed “Val” or “vv”, who loves gadgets and works with circuits and electricity; and a cast of 4  little creatures: Nacho (the pooch), Benjamin Cranklin (the cat), Lucky (the fish), and Katinka (the pink dolphin). Thus, for example, you will find a construction story kit called “Nacho’s cat nook” where Goldie Blox sets out to build a multi-story cat nook, with an elevator, to cheer up Benjamin Cranklin, the grumpy cat! The lever engineering principle is at work in this construction story kit and the 40 parts it contains are all designed to develop fine motor skill, problem-solving and spatial skills!

The invention of these construction story kits is disclosed in US2014199677 (A1) ― 2014-07-17, titled Modular multi-element constructions from rearrangeable pieces and kits allowing construction of same.
Board-based machines assembled from components including crank and winch attributes which allow for coupling between the components, and which allows the user to position various elements into desired positions. A kit of components including coupling attributes which allow for assembly into a large number of different types of machines and structures of different types and shapes. A book adapted to teach children about mechanical aspects of design in concert with a kit of components adapted to be used to create board based machines. [Abstract US2014199677]

Go GoldieBlox™! 

Goldielblox™ blog
GoldieBlox™ Bloxtown videos

Monday, February 22, 2016

Oh, patents! Portable Gluten sensor

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Celiac disease affects more than 2 million people in the US. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease that damages the lining of the small intestine, preventing the absorption of key nutrients. It is triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some products such as vitamins and lip balms.  Thus, people with Celiac disease cannot ingest, even a tiny amount of gluten. [NIH-NIDDKD]

The detection of gluten in food at best involves the analysis of food labels or questioning the people who prepare food. Otherwise, the known and highly effective methods of gluten detection involve the multi-step analysis of a food sample, a process which is best suited for laboratories or food manufacturing plants, considering the apparatus, the solvents, and time required to perform the tests.

The 6SensorLabs Nima portable gluten sensor thus responds to a real personal and household need for gluten analysis.  The device consists of a triangular reader with an insertion port for a single use analysis capsule, into which the food sample is inserted for mixing with a solvent. The analysis of the food sample takes less that 2 minutes, and the device can detect less than 20 parts per million, which is the cutoff point for a gluten-free label.  When the analysis is complete, the Nima reader displays a happy face for gluten-free and a sad face for the presence of gluten. Gluten analysis is now as easy as that!

This invention is disclosed in a family of 6 patent applications:

US2014295406 (A1) ― 2014-10-02 - Portable device for detection of harmful substances
CN105209912 (A) ― 2015-12-30 - Portable device for detection of harmful substances
EP2979092 (A1) ― 2016-02-03 - A portable device for detection of harmful substances 
US2015011020 (A1) ― 2015-01-08 - System and method for detection of target substances 
WO2014160861 (A1) ― 2014-10-02 - A portable device for detection of harmful substances
WO2015147911 (A1) ― 2015-10-01 - System and method for detection of target substances

As you will notice in the titles of the patents, the scope of the invention applies beyond the detection of gluten to the detection of substances, termed alternatively “target substances” or “harmful substances”. This means that with a capsule containing the right solvent, trace amounts of a wider variety of food or cosmetic allergens could be detected, with this portable device. Accordingly, US2014295406, for example, recites the following lists of potential target analytes:  
“…caffeine, phenylalanine, aspartame, MSG, heavy metals, artificial flavors, and artificial colors [..] pathogens including bacteria, viruses, fungus, yeast, pesticides, and other toxins, or from the group of dietary units including fat, protein, sugar, sodium, cholesterol, vitamins, and minerals.”

Below, the Abstract for US2014295406 titled Portable device for detection of harmful substances, is included.
 A self-contained apparatus and methods for detecting the presence of any specified substance in any medium. A sample of the medium is placed in a capsule, along with a solvent and a sensor configured to test for a target analyte. The solvent comes into contact with the medium in the capsule, and the capsule is agitated to create a dispersion in the solvent of a portion of any target analyte present in the medium. A release mechanism configured to cause conduction of the dispersion to the sensor, so that the sensor produces an indication of presence of the target analyte if the target analyte is present in the medium. The apparatus uses a disposable capsule where the medium in question is placed and the disposable capsule is placed inside a reader and analyzed for presence of the harmful substance. [Abstract US2014295406]
And below, an image of the marketed Nima Gluten sensor is included, as well as a figure drawing of the analysis capsule inserted into the device, extracted from the drawings appended to US2014295406.

Whether for people affected with Celiac disease, or for those with severe allergies, this is a potentially life-saving device.

Celiac disease
NIH-NIDDKD – Celiac Disease
6SensorLabs Nima Gluten sensor

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Oh, patents! AR buds 4 u

Copyrights © Françoise Herrmann

Uh-huh… that’s a cool pair of Augmented Reality (AR) earbuds brought to you by Doppler Labs Inc.!

Ok, what if you could choose the sounds you wanted to hear? Rather than increasing the volume of sound like a hearing aid, or shutting off sound like ear plugs, what if you could choose which sounds you wanted to hear, and also tweak them? 

So for example, when you are in an airplane, what if you could simply shut off just the roar of the engine, and keep the conversation? Likewise, but augmented, what if you were at a sports event and you wanted to hear a feed of sportscaster comments, without the roar of the crowd? 

You would need a device that not only has the capacity to both selectively cancel out certain ambient sounds and amplify certain others, but also a capacity to feed in sound from another location, that superimposes the on-location ambient sounds (i.e.; the sportscaster’s voice broadcasted via radio or TV during a sports event), thus augmenting the ambient sound possibilities, while adjusting the loudness of ambient sound or selectively turning down certain ambient sounds.

In a nutshell, the AR sound system does just that. The AR sound system includes the Cloud, mobile or desktop, Bluetooth®-enabled, devices accessing the Cloud, equipped with a display interface and app software, for connection and communication with the Bluetooth®-enabled earbuds. 

In turn, the earbud housing is equipped with a microphone and speaker, a battery;  amplifying, processing, conversion, communication and storage means, allowing for ambient sound, as well location parameters to be processed according to personal app parameters and for the processed sounds and app-controlled feeds to enter the ear-canal.

In turn, the mobile device then also has the capacity to match ambient sound and location parameters with other sorts of server-based information which might be superimposed on the ambient sound. Examples of the superimposed feeds include, but are not limited to, sportscasters reporting on a sports event, specific advertisements targeting a mall location, and all sorts of sound effects such as Reverb which transforms the sounds of one room into concert hall sounds.   

If you are a musician, or in the Armed forces, you have probably already used this sort of filtering and feed AR sound technology. Only now, this technology is called “Here” Active Listening earbuds. The Here earbuds, equipped with an on-board CPU, are wireless, app- and cloud-based, GPS & Bluetooth®-enabled, affordable, and soon to be released for everyone else to use! That is, providing that you have signed the waiting list (and you are one of the lucky first 10,000), or that you plan on attending the Coachella Music and Arts Festival on one of two week-ends in April, 2016.

Doppler Labs Inc has filed the following 5 utility patents and 2 design patents, in connection with this invention:

US2015382106 (A1) ― 2015-12-31 - Real-time combination of ambient audio and a secondary audio source
US2015373474 (A1) ― 2015-12-24 - Augmented reality sound system
US2015355880 (A1) ― 2015-12-10 - Active acoustic filter with automatic selection of filter parameters based on ambient sound
US2015312677 (A1) ― 2015-10-29 - Active acoustic filter with location-based filter characteristics
US2015312671 (A1) ― 2015-10-29 - Passive acoustical filters with filled expansion chamber
USD733102 (S1) ― 2015-06-30 - Ear bud
USD725082 (S1) ― 2015-03-24 - Ear bud

 The abstract for the AR filtering system disclosed in US2015355880 titled Active acoustic filter with automatic selection of filter parameters based on ambient sound is the following:
There is disclosed active acoustic filter systems and methods. A processor is disposed within a housing configured to interface with a user's ear. A memory stores data defining one or more locations and a respective set of location-based processing parameters associated with each of the one or more locations. A personal computing device external to the housing is coupled to the processor via a first wireless communications link. The personal computing device determines a current location of the active acoustic filter system. The processor generates digitized processed sound by processing digitized ambient sound in accordance with a set of location-based processing parameters retrieved from the memory, the retrieved set of location-based processing parameters associated with the current location of the active acoustic filter system as determined by the personal computing device. [Abstract US2015355880]

An image of the earbud design found in the design patent USD733102, and an image of the marketed product, are included below:



Doppler Labs Inc used their favorite musicians to try out the buds. If you are into music, check out the Pioneers section of the Here website to see what AR concert venues might look like, and to hear what the pros say about these cool new AR buds!

Coachella Music and Arts Festival (April 15-17, 2016 and April 22-24, 2016)
Here Active Listening Earbuds

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy V-Day!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

February 14 was co-opted by Eve Ensler in 1998 when it was declared V-Day. This was the year when the V-Day non-profit organization was created, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women and girls  The organisation was founded using the 250,000 dollars in proceeds from a single benefit performance of Ensler's famous Broadway hit, and multiple-award-winning, activist and humanitarian play:  The Vagina Monologues.  

Since then, and in light of the staggering statistics on the number women and girls victims of violence, V-Day launched the One-billion women rising campaign on V-Day 2012. This is the single largest mass action to end violence against women and girls, where the one billion rising represent the 1 in 3 women, victims of violence in a world population of 7 billion. 

Since 2012, V-day has become a world-wide day for organizing, celebrating and dancing the specially choreographed Break the chain piece for the occasion. Otherwise, V-Day arises within the context of three months of intensified fundraising events, including performances of the famous play that brought women's and girls' experience of violence into the limelight.

Please feel free to click on the following [link] to tune into the One Billion rising V-day celebrations, and perhaps to find and connect with the women and girls, and all those who love them, celebrating in your area.  Everyone will be dancing, marching, speaking and fundraising in celebration!

V-day is also a special day for the UN HeForShe campaign, a United Nations campaign that has enlisted the support of men to hold up one-half of the sky, and to speak up on behalf of women and girls in the fight to end violence against them. The UN HeForShe mission is no less than to end gender inequality. The new logo for this movement of men in support of women, in their bid to end violence directed at them, is included to the right.

Please feel free to stand together and join the fight [here]!  

In 2016, the facts on violence against women and girls are still bleak:
-  One woman in three  is still the victim of violence (physical, emotional and/or psychological) perpetuated mostly by an intimate partner. In 2012, one in 2 women killed were killed under such circumstances by their partners or family. In comparison, 1 in 20 men were killed under such conditions [UN: Facts & Figures].
- Two thirds of countries have outlawed domestic violence, only 52 countries have criminalized marital rape [UN: Facts & Figures].  
- 4.5 million, of the 21 million estimated victims of forced labor and human trafficking, are victims of sexual exploitation, and 98% are women [UN: Facts & Figures]. 
- 133 million women and girls have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in 29 countries of Africa and the Middle East, 1/3 less than 30 years ago [UN: Facts & Figures]. 
- 700 million women were married before the age of 18, one-third before the age of 15. 2.5 times more poor girls are likely to be forced into child marriages than wealthier girls [UN: Facts & Figures].  

 Thus, violence directed against women and girls is still considered of pandemic proportions.

Ensler, E. (1996) The Vagina Monologues ( Acting Edition). New York, NY: Dramatist Play Service Inc.
Farhan Akthar (Dec. 1, 2015) What is a real man – a mard?
One billion rising
UN Women
UN- Fact and Figures: Ending violence against women
UN – HeForShe campaign
V-Day Org
One Billion Rising - FlashMob - Break the chain  - San Francisco, CA 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Oh, patents! OSMO’s virtualized tangible interface objects

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Welcome OSMO, voted one of the best inventions by Times Magazine in 2014! Welcome AR (Augmented Reality) toys! 

OSMO’s virtualized tangible interface objects sit across two worlds: the virtual and the physical, and it’s the user that brings them together in the fun challenges of the OSMO games. OSMO is a game system that is played outside of the screen in a physical virtualization space. It is much more than a real world game, because the physical activity space in which you play has the capacity to virtualize on screen , like a mirror image, which in turn augments or deepens the possibilities of off screen interaction and activity.

Take ancient Chinese Tangram, a set of 7 small geometric wooden puzzle pieces (in the real physical world) that you are challenged to put together in specific ways in the off-screen virtualization space of the app. You will get feedback on-screen, with every move off screen, until you finally fit all the pieces together offscreen, like the virtual onscreen image! So, rather than moving the pieces of the puzzle onscreen in a capacitative mode, you are playing with the physical objects off screen, in a small space in front of the screen that has the capacity to virtualize your moves on screen, in turn providing you with feedback to complete the puzzle.

Take Newton, another OMSO game, and use any physical object you posess off screen, or even draw them in the virtualization space off screen, to defy the gravity of small beads falling virtually onscreen, and to make them bounce at a virtual target!  It’s what you do on the physical activity space off-screen that virtualizes to control and manipulate the falling and bouncing beads of the virtual world, and it’s the virtual world that sets the challenge with virtual falling and bouncing beads.

Take Masterpiece, yet anther OSMO game, and start drawing in the vitualization space, off screen in the physical world, the virtual image onscreen of any picture that you have taken off screen! OSMO transforms your pix into a line drawing, which you are then challenged to reproduce off screen with paper and pen or color markers.Your strokes and lines off-screen, on the physical activity surface will virtualize on screen so that you can easily follow the lines of the virtual image to create your masterpiece off screen!

It’s fun to play with friends in a virtualization space off screen, using physical objects that have the capicity to be virtualized on screen, in an interaction with the virtual world, or to be challenged in the virtualization space offscreen by the virtual world on screen… But how does it work? 

US2015339532 titled Virtualization of Tangible Interface Objects is the patent that discloses the OSMO game system invention. The physical activity virtualization system comprises a computing device (for example a tablet) and a stand with a small mirror adaptor designed to direct the field of view of the camera to the off screen activity surface, an app for each game, accessories or your own physical objects, and any small surface in front of the tablet, where physical interactions with objects may be virtualized.

Virtualization of physical actions and objects occurring in the physical world (on the physical activity surface) arises via a continuous video capture device. The video capture device communicates with the computing device, which is equipped with processors able to recognize and decode the motion and objects captured on video stream. The video stream captures activity outside of the computing device, as the user manipulates objects in the virtualization space.

Beyond hardware, the invention thus consists in the processing that has to occur to recognize and decode object attributes, connected to the motion and interactions captured on the video stream.  Once recongized, object attributes can be represented virtually.  And once represented virtually, the application can in turn generate routines and object-related information on the display of the computer device. The user can then visualize the information displayed and use it to inform further interactions. with objects in the physical world, on the virtualization surface area, off screen.

The beauty of this AR toy with its virtualization space of interaction in front of the computing device screen, and special hardware configuration, is several fold. First, it is a lot of fun to see your physical actions and objects virtualize on screen, in an interaction with the virtual world. Secondly, any number of applications may be developed and tailored to the OSMO virtualization system, which promisses many more OSMO games. Thirdly, the games are produced at very reasonable processing costs, passed onto the consumer as affordable app-based games. This is primarily due to the fact that the OSMO system uses lots of re-usable parts such as the hardware (i.e.; computing device, camera, mirror adaptor and stand) and the algorithms for detection and recognition. The system also allows the use of all sorts of everyday objects, with little or no contraints. It offers compatibility with numerous devices. And it has the capacity to process many different objects and interactions  simultaneously, without requiring mega computing power.  

Below, the abstract for US2015339532 titled Virtualization of Tangible Interface Objects is included. One of the patent drawings and an image of the marketed product are also included.
An example system includes a stand configured to position a computing device proximate to a physical activity surface. The system further includes a video capture device, a detector, and an activity application. The video capture device is coupled for communication with the computing device and is adapted to capture a video stream that includes an activity scene of the physical activity surface and one or more interface objects physically interactable with by a user. The detector is executable to detect motion in the activity scene based on the processing and, responsive to detecting the motion, process the video stream to detect one or more interface objects included in the activity scene of the physical activity surface. The activity application is executable to present virtual information on a display of the computing device based on the one or more detected interface objects. [Abstract US2015339532]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Oh, patents! LG patents!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Searching for the Unsubscribe link at the LG website, I found a Patent link instead, and could not resist clicking. Below, the mindblowing list of LG patents, or LG-related patents, that popped up in response!