Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Oh, patents! Nao’s hands

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Nao, Softbank Robotics' humanoid, has two hands, each with a palm, two fingers and a thumb, and you might be wondering why? 

The design of humanoid hand function mimicking human hand function is quite a task. A human hand has 27 degrees of freedom with 27 bones and 14 joints. Humanoid hand movements or degrees of freedom are controlled with actuators which, for all practical purposes of space and coordination, are best kept to a minimum.  Indeed, the two Softbank Robotics humanoid hand patent families listed below each address the issue of actuation relative to degrees of freedom, and in particular of humanoid hands. The design goal explained in the patents is underactuation. That is, a design where the degrees of freedom (N) is always greater than the number of actuators, expressed as N>A, and the greater the underactuation, the better.  The degree of underactuation is thus calculated as N-A, the difference between degrees of freedom and the number of actuators: 

In the first patent family, the solution found for achieving high underactuation was a spreader able to distribute the force of a single actuator across all digits. So that one actuator is actually controlling 14 degrees of freedom for a humanoid hand with 4 fingers and one thumb, a design solution that even enables the digits to adapt to the shape of an object grasped.  However, this design solution does not actuate digits separately.  And the inventors not only wanted humanoid hands to grasp objects and to adapt to their shape, they also wanted for humanoid hands to function in communication. So a second family of patents discloses high underactuation, which additionally achieves separate digit movement, such as for example, pointing with an index, or a "thumbs-up" as in the iconic "I like".

The two humanoid hand patent families are listed below, with US patent abstracts for each family, and patent drawings from each of the patent families. The first  Figure drawing shows the spreader, within the humnoid palm, distributing the actuation force of a single actuator across digits, and Figure 2c shows separate digit movement, two digits bent, one straight, also underactuated by a single actuator. A short video is also included presenting Romeo, another much larger Softbank Robotics humanoid, designed as a home companion, with clearly independent thumb movement. 

Patent Family I
A hand intended for a humanoid robot comprises a palm and several fingers that are motorized relative to the palm. According to the invention, the hand comprises an actuator common to several fingers and a spreader making it possible to distribute a force exerted by the actuator toward the fingers.   [Abstract US2016325437 (A1)]
  • US2016325437 (A1) ― 2016-11-10 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot
  • JP2017503668A ― 2017-02-02 -  Operation of intended hand provided on humanoid robots
  • AU2015208156 (A1) ― 2016-08-04 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
  • CA2937582 (A1) ― 2015-07-30 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
  • EP3105018 (A1) ― 2016-12-21 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
  • FR3016542 (A1) ― 2015-07-24- Actionnement d'une main destinée à équiper un robot à caractère humanoïde
  • KR20160120732 (A) ― 2016-10-18 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
  • MX2016009357 (A) ― 2017-04-13 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot
  • NZ722309 (A) ― 2017-08-25 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
  • SG11201605955V (A) ― 2016-09-29 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
  • WO2015110521 (A1) ― 2015-07-30 - Actuation of a hand intended for being provided on a humanoid robot 
Patent Family II

A hand intended for a humanoid robot comprising a palm and several fingers, each of the fingers being able to be displaced in relation to the palm between a position of rest maintained by spring effect and a compressed position obtained by driving a link part with the palm countering the spring effect, comprises a motorized shaft, linked to the link part of each of the fingers, and configured to respectively displace at least one first finger and at least one second finger, from the position of rest to the compressed position, by rotation of the motorized shaft respectively in a first direction of rotation and in an opposite direction. [Abstract US20170043486A1]
  • US20170043486A1 -- Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot
  • AU2015257679 (A1) ― 2016-11-10 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
  • CA2948073 (A1) ― 2015-11-12 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
  • EP3140085 (A1) ― 2017-03-15 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot
  • FR3020775 (A1) ― 2015-11-13 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
  • JP2017514712 (A) ― 2017-06-08 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
  • KR20170007351 (A) ― 2017-01-18 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
  • MX2016013597 (A) ― 2017-06-29 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot
  • SG11201608727V (A) ― 2016-12-29 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
  • WO2015169886 (A1) ― 2015-11-12 - Actuation of a hand to be provided on a humanoid robot 
Softbank Robotics

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Oh, patents! Nao's spine

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Beyond Nao’s unique and patented appearance in US design patent USD774148S1, this little robot embodies far more inventions. Beginning with Nao’s spine, or central nervous circuitry, each of the little robot’s humanoid features and functions are disclosed in utility patents, granted in the US, in Europe, as well as globally by WIPO.

For example, US2015122073 (A1) titled Spine for a humanoid robot discloses the invention that invokes Nao’s circumscribed spinal capacity for extension, flexion and rotation. This invention is one of several that gives the little robot, a specific set of features that mimic human function. A set of mimetic features that, in turn, and beyond representation, perhaps also offer a laboratory (or mirror) for better understanding certain aspects of human function.

Indeed, US2015122073 (A1) discloses a flexible spine with just two degrees of freedom that attaches to the pelvis at the lower end, and to the neck of the little robot, at the upper end. For practical design and production purposes, the invention spine only bends on two horizontal axes (i.e; right to left, and forward and back). Torque or vertical axis rotations were designed separately from the invention spine, into the little robot’s neck.  

The humanoid robot's spine thus comprises just two double acting linear actuators attached to the base of the neck and to the base of the pelvis, which together, or separately, control the forward/backward, right/left movements of the spine, comprising otherwise a flexible rod, and ball joints with just two degrees of freedom, to prevent the flexible rod from buckling. Far greater specification is included in the disclosure of this invention that includes 14 claims. 

US2015122073 (A1) is part of a family that includes 5 more patents disclosing Nao’s spine:
  • WO2013178772 (A1) ― 2013-12-05 - Spinal column for a humanoid robot 
  • JP2015523221 (A) ― 2015-08-13 - Spinal column for a humanoid robot
  • FR2991221 (A1) ― 2013-12-06 - Spinal column for a humanoid robot
  • EP2855104 (A1) ― 2015-04-08 - Spine for a humanoid robot 
  • DK2855104 (T3) ― 2017-10-16 - Spinal column for a humanoid robot 

The abstract for US2015122073 (A1) is included below with one of the patent drawings showing the design of Nao’s spine. 

The invention concerns a spinal column for a humanoid robot, the column (20) comprising a lower base (11) intended to be fixed to a pelvis of the robot (10) and an upper base (13) intended to be fixed to a neck (14) of the robot (10), the spinal column (10) allowing two rotations of the upper base (13) relative to the lower base (11), a first taking place about a sagittal axis (21) and a second taking place about a transverse axis (22). According to the invention, the column (20) comprises a flexible band (25) and linear actuators (26, 27), the band (25) being embedded in a first of the ends (28, 30) thereof at a point (29) in a first of the bases (11, 13) and at least guided at a point (31) in a second of the bases (11, 13), the actuators (26, 27) both being anchored between the two bases (11, 13) at anchoring points (32, 33, 34, 35). For each of the bases (11, 13), the anchoring points (32, 33, 34, 35) of the two actuators (26, 27) and the embedding or guide point (29, 31) of the band (25) are spaced apart.
A video is also included below to show Nao’s range of movements in dance, and for you to witness the mimesis.

Video - 5 Nao robots programmed by Valentin Bertrand to dance to Via Continum by Ez3kiel. 


Friday, October 27, 2017

Oh, Patents! Nao

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Developed by Softbank Robotiks, in partnership with the French Center for Integrated Robotics - Criif (Centre de Robotique Intégré de l’Ile-de-France – Bureau d’étude robotique sur mesure et objets connectés), Nao is one of three well known French robots. The Softbank Robotiks troika includes Nao, Pepper and Romeo.

Nao is a short little humanoid companion robot (about 2 feet tall), which means that the little robot has a body designed to resemble a human. In particular, Nao displays  25% humanoid range of motion. Nao is also equipped with speech recognition for 20 languages. Nao is connected to the Internet, via wi-fi or ethernet, which means that it is also customizable on your computer, with downloadable Nao designed apps, using Softbank Robotics' own NAOqi OS platform with Choréographe C that supports SDK Python, C++, Java and Java Script languages for programming and animation.

Use of Nao in the classroom comes with a curriculum, developed by teachers for teachers (e,g,; STEMRobotics). Special education programs have also already been developed for autistic children by Autistes Without Borders in France.

The US design patent USD774148S1 titled Humanoid Robot was filed by Softbank Robotiks on Sept. 1, 2015, and awarded on Dec. 13, 2016 to Robert Hong.

As a reminder a US design patent is different from a US utility patent in that:
“a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a "design patent" protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171)” (USPTO) 

One of the patent drawings is included above, and a video is included showing NAO R&D for a new docking station, at Aldebaran, a Softbank Robotics company, 

CRIIF - Centre de Robotique Intégré de l’Ile-de-France – Bureau d’étude robotique sur mesure et objets connectés
Softbank Robotikks
Autistes sans frontières
Stem Robotics

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Oh, patents! Buddy

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Buddy the Companion Robot, created by Blue Frog Robotics, is cute, customizable, and way smarter than your phone!

Masterminded as a spinoff project by Rodolphe Hasselvander, former Head of R&D at the CRIIF – Centre de robotique intégrée en Ile de France (Ile-de-France Center for Integrated Robotics - Robotics and Connected Objects Design Office) and business partner Franck De Visme, Buddy is best described by Tarantola at Engadget.com as “a cross between R2D2’s versatility and Wall-E’s emotive ability”, to which you might add a bit of “ET” cuteness. 

Depending on how Buddy is programmed, what accessories are added, or what apps are downloaded and created, just tap this little companion robot's face and it will vacuum, patrol your house to detect fires, burglars and floods, send you alerts, be remotely controlled, turn lights on and off, remind you to do things, answer calls, wake you up in the morning, play your favorite music, tutor your kids in maths and spelling, play hide and seek, follow you around the house, store all your recipes, play video games, read stories, keep your pets entertained while you are at work, and serve as a platform for all your apps -- all of this with the cutest and most endearing user interface, and in several languages too! Buddy was also successfully tested with autistic children. 

One patent family was found on file for Blue Frog Robotics, WO2015197926A2 titled, Method of determining a geometrical transformation between two models of a three-dimensional object, although Rodolphe Hasselvander has several industrial robotics patents on file, from previous lifetimes.  

Otherwise, Buddy is open source, powered by Unity 3D and Android software, and free range, which means that the community of developers is invited to create more apps and accessories, for Buddy, in ways analogous to the development of smartphone apps, and accessories.

The abstract for this patent is included below, with a cute Buddy companion video showing  the little robot, and residential ally.
The invention relates to a method of determining a geometrical transformation between a first model of a three-dimensional object and a second model of the three-dimensional object, said first model being obtained on the basis of a first measurement instrument, said method comprising: a first step (E1) of defining the second model; a second step of defining at least one invariant reference point between the first model and the second model; a third step (E3) of slicing the first model and the second model with respect to said invariant reference point, said first model being sliced into a first cloud of points, said second model being sliced into a second cloud of points; and a fourth step (301) of determining the geometrical transformation between the first cloud of points and the second cloud of points. [Abrstract WO2015197926A2]

Blue Frog Robotic
CRIIF – Centre de robotique intégrée de l’Ile de France – Bureau d’étude robotique et objets connectés
Tarantola, A. (09-06-20150Buddy the robot wants to be your modern-day Rosie

Monday, October 23, 2017

Oh, patents! Melitta® Paper filters

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
The crimped and cut design retained for Melitta® paper filters, to this day, was originally recited nearly 100 years ago. 

As recited in GB451197, granted on July 31, 1936, to Horst Wolfgang Bentz (Melitta’s son), the Melitta® paper filter resolved several problems of the prior art. In particular, the way in which prior art paper filters decreased the rate of filtering because when pressed into the ribbed filtering cup, the paper doubled or tripled in thickness on the walls of the ribbed cup. In turn, the excess paper, thus used, also increased waste and costs. Additionally, prior art paper also tended to tear when the filtering cup was wet.
To resolve this problematic situation, the invention recites a paper filter, already shaped into a cup, prior to use, even if it may be folded for packaging purposes. The walls of the paper filter are cut and crimped together into a cone-shaped vessel. (recited alternatively as glued, goffered, stitched or stamped), In one embodiment of the invention, a variation of which is retained to date, the apex of the cone-shaped filter is either folded back on the side (fig. 5), or cut and crimped (fig. 3), like the edges of the filter walls. In another (un-retained) embodiment of the invention (fig. 6), the bottom of the filter is separately cut and attached by means of crimping (goffering, stamping, gluing, etc.)

The abstract for this invention is included below with the sheet of patent drawings, illustrating the new 1936 Mellita® paper filters, their new seams, and options for cutting, and folding back, or crimping, the apex of the cone, or for attaching a separate bottom altogether. The image of a commercially available, cut and crimped, 2017  box of size 4 Melitta® paper filters is also included above.   
Filter paper for use in a grooved or ribbed cup or like vessel, for example for making infusions of tea or coffee, is preformed according to the shape of the vessel from one or more blanks by folding and then uniting the edges by crimping, stitching or adhesive. Fig. 2 shows a paper element formed from a single blank with edges d crimped together. A separate blank may be used to form the bottom, its periphery being turned upward and united to the blank forming the side wall by crimping. The element shown in Fig. 5, has its lower portion strengthened by additional thicknesses g. It is cone-shaped with the apex turned up and attached to the side wall by crimping, so that it is kept in this position. [Abstract GB45197]


Paperclip unverified

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oh, patents! Melitta® filters

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Ever wondered who might have invented Melitta® paper filters for brewing coffee, or any of the hundreds of non-electric, "pour over and drip", coffee brewing Melitta® products, with a green and red package?

Her name is Melitta Bentz! She was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1873, where she invented round paper filters for brewing coffee that she placed on the bottom of a  perforated pot. Her eponymous invention solved two pervasive problems of the prior art: the bitterness of the grounds floating in coffee brews, and the impossible tasks of cleaning cloth coffee filters. Inspired by blotting paper used in schools, her paper filter was apparently first patented in Germany on July 8, 1908.  Her company M. Bentz was registered in Dresden in December 1908.

The rest is history! A search at the EPO for “Melitta Bentz” returned more than 400 patents, the most recent of which are still perfecting the art of paper filters for brewing coffee.

The following are a few of the Melitta Bentz patents filed in Great Britain in the 1930s:

  • GB400077 (A) ― 1933-10-19 - Improvements in or relating to filtering devices
  • GB415929 (A) ― 1934-09-06 - Improvements in filtering devices particularly for coffee, tea or other beverages 
  • GB416299 (A) ― 1934-09-13 - Improvements in and relating to filter papers 
  • GB451197 (A) ― 1936-07-31 - Filter paper for filtering apparatus in cup form
  • GB494316 (A) ― 1938-10-24 - Improvements in paper filter bags for filter vessels
  • GB494312 (A) ― 1938-10-24 - A filtering device for beverages such as coffee and tea
The abstract for GB400007 is included below with the patent drawings showing the already funnel-shaped Melitta® filter, and its improved ribbed bottom. The purpose of this particular Melitta® filter patent was to increase the speed of filtration of such substances as coffee, tea, malt and coffee substitutes. Prior art paper filters pressed against the bottom of the filter under the weight of the substances being filtered and thus contributed directly to the decreased speed of filtration. This particular Melitta® filter invention seeks to resolve decreased filtration speed caused at the bottom of the filter, with a ribbed bottom, so that the recesses formed together with the ridges create passages leading to the openings, found on the bottom of the filter. Similarly, the filter also has ribbed walls, designed to drain filtrates to the bottom of the filter containing openings.
A filter h having ribs i  on tapered side walls is provided with a flat bottom k having ribs l forming passages therebetween leading directly to one or more outlets m on the bottom, some, at least, of the passages between the ribs i leading directly into the passages in the bottom. Circular or other holes or slots may be provided in the side walls. The filter may be made of aluminium or of ceramic material and may be supported in a conical flanged holder or by a ring n formed integral with the filter. A further support o may be provided whereon the filter is rotatably mounted such that the orifices m may coincide with projections q or with orifices in the support for closing or opening the outlet from the filter. The filter paper may be introduced by a conical tool. [Abstract GB400007]  
Melitta Group

Paperclip unverified

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oh, patents! The dish-washing machine (1886)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Ever been told that using a dishwasher is the only way to avoid breaking delicate crystal champagne flutes when cleaning them? A similar story about a dishwasher that "Handles the finest China without chipping or breaking", as extracted from the included advertisement poster, is purported to have actually inspired the invention of the washing machine in the first place. So indeed, this is a story, and its vairations, that has endured since the 1880s!

The first mechanical dishwasher to use water pressure, instead of scrubbers, to clean dishes, was invented by a woman, called Josephine Garis-Cochrane.

Her invention is recited in US patent No. 355139, titled Dish-washing machine, an 11-page document, containing 15 drawings, filed on December 31, 1885, and granted on December 28, 1886. The invention basically comprises a continuous stream of soapy or hot water supplied to a rotating crate, containing racks or cages, designed to contain the dishes and cutlery. The crate rotates so that all portions of the racks or cages receive the supply of alternatively soapy or hot water. The valves, pumps, pistons and levers actuating the machine, the tanks and conduits removing and supplying the water, as well as the design of the wire racks for holding the dishes and cutlery, are all recited, in detail, in the nineteenth-century patent document.

The Garis-Cochrane dish-washing machine was exhibited at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 where it won a distinguished award.  The 1893 Chicago World fair was called the World’s Columbian Exposition as it celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus, arriving in America, in 1492.

Commercial production of the Josephine Garis-Cochrane dish-washing machine began in 1897. The Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company she founded was bought by Kitchen Aid in 1916.

Below, a patent drawing of the Garis-Cochrane cutlery rack, and above, a nineteenth-century poster advertising the Garis Cochrane dish-washing machine.

Josephine Cochrane
Kitchen Aid
World’s Columbian Exposition – Encyclopedia of Chicago

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Balenciaga Bazar Totes!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The Balenciaga Bazar Tote series celebrates those used in South-East Asian markets. Whether it is in the Philippines where they are called Palengke bags, or Thailand where they are called Sampeng bags, these large versatile totes, made of synthetic polypropylene inspired Balenciaga collections on the 2016 runway. 

Are these bags legitimate? 

According to the Thai Department of Intellectual Property: "It's unlikely anybody can sue Balenciaga because the materials and shapes are different." (Vogue UK, 2016). Indeed, according to RealStyle (2017), the many upgrades of the Balenciaga Bazar totes, such as the stitching of each individual stripe, the inside lining with leather trimmed pockets, both zippered and patch, as well as the logo, appearing on the front of the Balenciaga Bazar totes, would also preclude it from being considered counterfeit. The point of a counterfeit, according to RealStyle, is for the fake to pass as another brand, so the branded Balenciaga totes are indeed genuine Balenciaga totes.

A point which the voices of dissent (i.e.; of the disenfranchised) might see in a completely different light... since branding and ownership of the design might be argued as precisely the point of contention. As for the stitching of the Balenciaga Bazar totes, which is noticed by those skilled in the art, since the stitching at the perimeter of the bags purposefully appears in white, rather than "tonal" (meaning that the stitches do not blend in), and with a low number of stitches per inch to emulate the cheaper South-East Asian versions, this might precisely be construed as the perfect proof of  counterfeit. 

However, beyond arguing fake and real, considering the position of the Thai Department of Intellectual Property, the deeper issue that polarizes is that, according to the World Bank, half of the poorest people on earth, living on less than $1.90 a day, are found in South East Asia. The question of legitimacy then could be re-framed as what might be done with the bags.

Original South East Asian market bag

Size, shape, color and material differences...
Vogue UK Balenciaga not copying Thai market bag
RealStyle (2017)  From Market to runway: Inside the Balenciaga bazar bag
Wolrd Bank in East Asia & Pacific
World Bank - Ending extreme poverty in South East Asia 
World Bank - On poverty

Monday, October 16, 2017

Balenciaga’s Ikea-inspired big blue tote

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

In Andy Warhol’s tradition of celebrating the mundane Campbell Soup, Balenciaga's big blue tote ($2145) salutes Ikea’s big blue Frakta shopping bag (.99cts)!

What was Ikea's response to the copycat bag, and potential cause for filing an infringement procedure? 

Ikea (UK & Ireland) stated they were "extremely flattered to seemingly be an inspiration for the latest catwalk designs for Balenciaga" (Morby, 2017). ACNE, the Swedish ad agency for IKEA, also launched a poster campaign explaining, in 4 points: "How to identify a real IKEA FRAKTA Bag".

Balenciaga's big blue Ikea-inspired tote, and Ikea's advertisement campaign poster, are both included below.

Morby, A. (April 26, 2017) IKEA responds to Balenciaga's take on blue tote with spot-the-difference guide

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oh, patents! Balenciaga belt buckle

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The US design patent USD568789 titled Belt buckle was awarded to Isabelle Guichot, former CEO of the Balenciaga company.  

As a reminder, the difference between a US design patent and a US utility patent is the following:
“a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a "design patent" protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171)” (USPTO)

The drawing Fig. 1 on file with the patent is included below with an image of the marketed, belt with belt buckle, product. 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Oh, patents! Balenciaga single knot cuff

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The Balenciaga line of jewelry includes this patented single knot cuff that comes in many variations. The US patent awarded for this design, to Isabelle Guichot, former Balenciaga CEO, is USD730765 titled Bracelet

As a reminder, the difference between a US design patent and a US utility patent is the following:
“a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a "design patent" protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171)” (USPTO)
A figure drawing of the design on file for the patent, and an image of the marketed Balenciaga product, called the single knot cuff, in silver and gold, are included below. 


Friday, October 13, 2017

Oh, patents! Balenciaga perfume bottle (2)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

This patented Balenciaga perfume bottle is used to market the Balenciaga B line of products, which includes perfume and makeup. The US design patent awarded to Isabelle Guichot, former Balenciaga CEO, is USD734164, titled Perfume bottle.

As a reminder, the difference between a US design patent and a US utility patent is the following:
“a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a "design patent" protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171)” (USPTO)
Figure 1, on file for the US design patent, is included below with images (from top to bottom) of the Balenciaga B makeup bottle, Balenciaga B Intense and Balenciaga B Skin perfume bottles, including packaging.