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.

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