IBM’s drone concept knows when you want a coffee, and flies it to you

Coffee-delivering drones are already a thing — well, in a couple of gimmicky cafe-sponsored setups, at least — but tech firm IBM has had an idea to take the concept one step further.

Designing its system for both cafe and office environments, the company suggests using its technology to understand a person’s state of mind to determine whether a cup of coffee is required. And then using a drone to deliver it.

In other words, if the drone’s on-board sensors detect someone sitting at their desk with their head tilted and their eyes half closed, then it’s a safe bet a strong dose of caffeine is needed. Fast.

IBM’s offbeat idea is explained in a patent that was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month.

IBM dominated the early days of computing, and in recent years it has turned its attention to fast-expanding sectors such as artificial intelligence (A.I.), unveiling a range of ideas far more impressive than a coffee-delivering drone, though even this system is very much rooted in A.I.

For example, the patent describes how the drone’s technology would use cameras and smart sensors to interpret a person’s pupil dilation and facial expressions, using the information to decide whether that person could do with a cup of the ol’ bean juice. The document also says that with drinking being a habitual or ritualistic process for many people, the system’s A.I. smarts would enable it to “learn times and places at which an individual tends to prefer to consume coffee,” and then use that history to improve the efficiency of its drink delivery system.

On a simpler level, the technology could also be programmed to respond to hand gestures indicating the desire for a drink.

Special delivery

Several delivery methods are suggested in the patent. For example, the drink could be lowered to a recipient on an “unspooling string,” with the piping hot liquid refreshment sealed safely in a bag to prevent an unfortunate scalding incident should anyone knock it on its way down. Alternatively, the beverage could be dispensed directly into a cup from a coffee-carrying package carried by the drone.

Downsides to IBM’s idea? With drones continually buzzing about as they try to determine who needs a cup of joe, the constant noise is likely to become unbearable for most office workers, especially in an open-plan office. The sensible alternative would be for the caffeine-deprived employee to place one foot in front of the other until they arrive at the kitchen, whereupon they can prepare their favorite drink. The light exercise might even be beneficial.

While it’s true that many patents never make it off the page, it should be noted that IBM’s effort comprises 16 pages of extremely detailed explanation and drawings and would likely have cost quite a lot of money to prepare and file. And we’re pretty confident there are plenty of folks out there who rather like the idea of a drink-delivering drone, especially one that knows they need a coffee even before they do.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

Samsung says the Galaxy Fold needs more improvements before it's released

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.

Everything we know about the PS5, including its impressive hardware specs

PlayStation 5 rumors have circulated for over a year, but there's still plenty we don't know. Here's everything you need to know about the PS5, including rumors about its release, specs, and games.

The black satin Razer Phone 2 is now available for $500

The Razer Phone 2 is finally here, and it's got upgraded specs, that super-smooth 120Hz display, and an updated design. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the Razer Phone 2.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.