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“There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”— Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon

When Jeff Bezos launched Amazon.com in 1994, it was an online bookselling site. This was during a time when bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks and Crown Books were the leading front runners in the bookstore industry in the American shopping malls.

Today, Amazon’s name has become almost synonymous with online retail for most people and has now spread its wings to cloud computing, electronics, tech gadgets and the entertainment world. With market capitalization worth $897.47B as of August 3rd 2018, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when Amazon sold only books.

Amazon is constantly pushing to innovate and as new inventions come to shape, there are “patents” made that helps the company have a competitive advantage over technologies and products in order to attract more customers.

According to United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Patent is an exclusive right to invention and “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States”.

As of March 20, 2018, Amazon owned 7,717 US patents filed under two business entities, Amazon Technologies, Inc. (7,679), and Amazon.com, Inc (38). Looking at the chart below, you can tell that Amazon Technologies, Inc., was one among the top 15 companies in terms of number of patents granted in 2017.

Top 15 companies, by number of patents granted by USPTO, 2017

Amazon competes closely with the world’s leading tech giants in terms of patenting technologies. The below table only considers US patents. Here, Amazon holds only few US patents than IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

 Number of US Patents Containing Emerging-Technology Keywords in Patent Description

Some successfully patented Amazon innovations in 2018

There are thousands of inventions that Amazon is tied up with and for which they have filed for patents. These include employee surveillance AR goggles, a real-time accent translator, robotic arms tossing warehouse items,  one-click buying, drones,etc. Let’s have a look at these remarkable innovations by Amazon.

AR goggles for improving human-driven fulfillment (or is it to track employees?)

Date of Patent: August 2, 2018

Filed: March 20, 2017

Assignee: Amazon Technologies, Inc.

  AR Goggles                                                         

Features: Amazon has recently patented a pair of augmented reality goggles that could be used to keep track of its employees.The patent is titled “Augmented Reality User interface facilitating fulfillment.” As per the patent application, the application is a wearable computing device such as augmented reality glasses that are worn on user’s head. The user interface is rendered upon one or more lenses of the augmented reality glasses and it helps to show the workers where to place objects in Amazon’s fulfillment centers. There’s also a feature in the AR glasses which provides workers with turn-by-turn directions to the destination within the fulfillment centre. This helps them easily locate the destination as all the related information gets rendered on the lenses.

   AR Goggles  steps

The patent has received criticism over concerns that this application might hamper the privacy of employees within the warehouses, tracking employees’ every single move. However, Amazon has defended the application by saying that it has got nothing to do with “employee surveillance”. As this is a patent, there’s no guarantee if it will actually hit the market.

Robotic arms that toss warehouse items

Date of Patent: July 17, 2018

Filed: September 29, 2015

Assignee: Amazon Technologies, Inc.

Features: Amazon won a patent titled “Robotic tossing of items in inventory system” last month. As per the patent application, “Robotic arms or manipulators can be used to toss inventory items within an inventory system. Tossing strategies for the robotic arms may include information about how a grasped item is to be moved and released by a robotic arm to achieve a trajectory for moving the item to a receiving location”.

 Robotic Arms

Utilizing a robotic arm to toss an item to a receiving location can help improve throughput through the inventory system. This is possible as the robotic arms will help with reducing the amount of time that may otherwise be spent on placing a grasped item directly onto a surface for receiving the item. “The tossing strategy may be based at least in part upon a database containing information about the item, characteristics of the item, and/or similar items, such as information indicating tossing strategies that have been successful or unsuccessful for such items in the past,” the patent reads.

 Robotic Arms Steps

Amazon’s aim with this is to eliminate the challenges faced by modern inventory systems like supply chain distribution centers, airport luggage systems, etc, while responding to requests for inventory items.

The patent received criticism over the concern that one of the examples in the application was a dwarf figurine and could possibly mock people of short stature. But, according to Amazon, “The intention was simply to illustrate a robotic arm moving products, and it should not be taken out of context.”

Real-time accent translator

Date of Patent: June 21, 2018

Filed: December 21, 2016

Assignee: Amazon Technologies, Inc.

Features: Amazon won a patent for an audio system application, titled “Accent translation” back in June this year, which will help with translating the accent of the speaker to the listener’s accent. The aim with this app is to get rid of the possible communication barriers which may arise due to different accents as they can be difficult to understand at times.

Accent translation system

The accent translation system collects a number of audio samples from different sources such as phone call, television, movies, broadcasts, etc. Each audio sample will have its association with at least one of the accent sample sets present in its database.  For instance, german accent will be associated with the german accent sample set.

  Accent translation system steps

In a two-party dialog, acquired audio is analyzed and if it associates with one among a wide range of saved accents then the audio from both the sides is outputted based on the accent of the opposite party. The possibilities with this application are endless. One major use case is the customer care industry where people have to constantly talk to different people with different accents.

Drone that uses Human gestures and voice commands

Date of Patent: March 20, 2018

Filed: July 18, 2016

Assignee: Amazon Technologies, Inc.

Features: Amazon patented for a drone, titled “Human interaction with unmanned aerial vehicles”, earlier this year, that would use human gestures and voice commands for package delivery. Amazon Drone makes use of propulsion technology which will help with managing the speed, trajectory, and direction of the drone.

  Drones

As per the patent application, “an unmanned aerial vehicle is provided which includes propulsion device, sensor device and a management system. The management system is configured to receive human gestures via the sensor device and in response, instruct the propulsion device to affect and adjustment to the behavior of the unnamed aerial vehicle. Human gestures include– visible gestures, audible gestures, and other gestures capable of recognition by the unmanned vehicle”.

Working structure of drones

The concept for drones started when Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, promised, back in 2013, that the company aims to make 30-minute deliveries, of packages up to 2.25 kgs or 5 pounds.

Amazon’s patents are a clear indication of its efforts and determination for inventing cutting-edge technologies for optimizing its operations so that it can pass on the benefits to its customers in the form of competitively priced product offerings. As Amazon has been putting its focus on machine learning, the drones and robotic arms will make the day-to-day tasks of the facility workers easier and more efficient. In fact, Amazon has stepped up its game big time and is incorporating Augmented reality, with its AR glasses to further scale efficiencies.

The real-time accent translators help eliminate the communication barriers, making Amazon cover a wide range of areas and perhaps provide a seamless customer care experience in the coming days.

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