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Plus: Sony’s AI medical monitor; a glimpse into Lego’s metaverse

Happy Thursday and welcome to Patent Drop! 

This morning, we’ll be looking at Microsoft’s plan to make recruiters’ jobs a little bit easier, checking out Sony’s tech for keeping your health data up-to-date, and taking a peek into what may become Lego’s kid-friendly metaverse. Let’s check it out.

#1. Microsoft the recruiter

The company that brought you Clippy wants to automate your hiring process.

Microsoft filed a patent application for an algorithm which automates the creation of talent-screening questions in a job application process. This algorithm works by analyzing job descriptions for what it calls “ngrams,” or sequences of words and creating questions based on commonly occurring phrases. 

For instance, say a recruiter posts a job application which includes key phrases like “machine learning,” or “valid driver’s license.” Microsoft’s tech would automate questions like “how many years of machine learning experience do you have,” or “do you have a valid driver’s license,” respectively.  

To focus only on phrases of substance, the system removes from consideration common phrases like “of the,” “requirement of,” “experience in,” “but not,” and “not require.” The system also scours job postings to detect new trends and requirements in order to keep the screening questions up-to-date “based on the evolution of the job market,” Microsoft said.

“As the job market evolves, so do the requirements for new jobs,” Microsoft said in its filing. “The changing needs of the market means that new screening questions will arise.”

Given that Microsoft owns LinkedIn, adding a tool like this to its platform makes perfect sense, said William Stonehouse III, co-founder and president of Crawford Thomas Recruiting. Several of LinkedIn’s competitors, like CareerBuilder, Monster and Indeed, have tried several times to automate the recruitment and candidate experience process, Stonehouse said, but have yet to do so in a seamless and effective way. If Microsoft’s product actually works, it stands to save recruiters tons of time while also giving LinkedIn a value-add. 

“Historically, no one’s been very successful with artificial intelligence as it relates to the matching of candidates to jobs, so there’s a lot of opportunity there,” Stonehouse said. “it would be a massive time saver if it works correctly. If not, it would be basically completely useless. It’s like self-driving cars: They’re kind of useless until they actually fully work.” 

According to HR Brew, up to 80% of routine employee interfacing done by an HR department can be handled by an automated chatbot. Stonehouse agrees that the recruiting process is ripe for innovation using AI and automation, at least for more basic tasks. 

But a robot isn’t likely to replace your company’s head recruiter any time soon. To evaluate things like personality and soft skills, according to Stonehouse, “It’s almost impossible to fully remove humans from the process.” 

“There’s a lot of factors that go into how people get selected for different companies,” Stonehouse said. “A lot of the things you’re assessing for are whether it’s a culture fit. Those things seem to be the hardest areas for an AI.”

#2. Sony’s personal nurse

Sony wants to keep its allegorical finger on the pulse … your pulse, specifically. 

The company is seeking to patent “AI-enabled access” to healthcare services and medical information. Basically, this tech works by first collecting your health information and “sensor data” like blood pressure or heart rate, as well as holding onto personal information like name, age and gender. 

This system would connect a user to their healthcare practitioner through a wearable device, like a smartphone or smart watch, and would track your sensor data in real-time. If something deviates from normal, the tech will inform the user to seek medical attention, and would automatically update the hospital or clinic with your current health situation. It also would only give the hospital access to the medical records necessary for whatever treatment a user needs at that time. After the user is treated, the system would update its AI model to reflect and monitor for the outcome of that treatment. 

“A lot of information related to the patient may be lost throughout the course of consultation,” Sony said. “The reason behind the loss may be that patient care is mostly fragmented … The loss of information may affect appropriate and timely delivery of medical attention or intervention to the patient.”

Though AI is a buzzy topic in the tech industry, patents like Sony’s aren’t making headlines over things like Midjourney and ChatGPT. But AI has massive potential to flip the healthcare space on its head, said Krishna Kurapati, founder and CEO of healthcare communications platform QliqSOFT

Sony’s application is just one example of AI’s application in a healthcare setting. AI could automate common processes like checking vitals, collecting data and examining symptoms, said Kurapati. AI could also apply a fine-tooth comb to diagnoses by rapidly running through every possibility when a doctor might not have the time to do so. And with the shortage of medical professionals only getting worse, AI might be just the thing needed for triage. 

Kurapati gave the example of reading an EKG: “An EKG can only be read by a cardiologist. But if you use AI, you could fast track the reading of it,” he said. “You’d still need an expert to make sense of false positives or false negatives, but they’re not reading from scratch.” 

While medical tech is far from the company’s bread and butter, Sony isn’t new to the healthcare space. The company offers an array of health tech products, including medical imaging and documentation products. But patenting this tech might make strategic sense for Sony, as it has the potential to combine its healthcare dealings with another one of its businesses: smartphones and smart watches. 

#3. Into the Lego-verse 

Lego may have started building its metaverse, block by virtual block. 

The company filed a patent application for creating a “virtual game environment and interactive game system.” In the filing, Lego essentially details an AR gaming platform for kids: A user will scan their toys using a smartphone to get a 3D representation of it, in order to create a “virtual toy construction model.” Then, depending on the toy that’s been scanned, different types of preset games would be offered. 

For example, if a user scans a tractor toy or a farmer figurine, the system would pull up a virtual farming landscape where the user could grow virtual Lego crops or tend to virtual Lego farm animals.  

“A close link between the physical world and a virtual game play stimulating the interactive involvement of the user and, in particular, stimulating the development of different skills by children’s game playing is still missing,” Lego said in its application. 

While many wouldn’t consider Lego as a tech heavyweight, the toy manufacturer announced last April that it’s working on a kid-friendly and safety-focused metaverse in partnership with Epic Games, the company behind hit games like Fortnite and Rocket League. To christen the partnership, the video game company secured a $2 billion investment from Sony and Lego to fund the project.

“Kids enjoy playing in digital and physical worlds and move seamlessly between the two,” Niels Christiansen, CEO of Lego, said at the time. “Just as we’ve protected children’s rights to safe physical play for generations, we are committed to doing the same for digital play.” 

And while hype for the metaverse generally has died down, just this week, Christiansen told The Financial Times that the company is upping investment on digital products, and “doing a lot of things on the digital side.” This patent, filed in September, might be a peek into how they’re doing so. 

Though Lego has high hopes for its metaverse, it has some stiff competition. Established virtual world-style games like Minecraft and Roblox have had the hearts of millions of players since before the term “metaverse” even made headlines. But its partnership with Epic – and more patent applications like these – might go a long way in Lego’s fight to play with the big kids. 

Extra Drops

Some other fun patents we wanted to share. 

  • Snap wants to give you a new perspective. The company filed a patent for tech which allows users wearing their AR glasses to see objects in each others’ homes by establishing them as “personalized anchor points.” 

  • Disney wants to track the movement of your favorite athlete. The company is seeking to patent real-time “kinematic analyses of body motion,” which can generate data about the precise movements of participants in a game setting. ESPN might soon get some really in-depth data. 

  • Baidu is automating the office. The company wants to patent an “intelligent office system” for managing assignments. The system creates, organizes and stores “work cards for different work tasks” based on the task progress and information as a way to organize complex work environments. 

What else is new? 

  • Elon Musk apparently wants to build his own town just outside of Austin, Texas. Who had that on their 2023 bingo card?

  • Apple is launching a classical music app on March 28. The platform, called Apple Music Classical, will debut with 5 million tracks.

  • Employees at Baidu are racing to launch Ernie Bot, the Chinese search engine’s ChatGPT equivalent that’s set to debut next week.

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