Although the timing is likely to be a coincidence, ChatGPT bankrollers Microsoft has had its patent for an AI-powered backpack approved with back-to-school season in full swing.
The backpack has a variety of interesting features, including voice and audio capabilities, as well as sensors that can extract information about the surrounding environment.
Will the backpack usher in a new era of functional, wearable digital assistants – or will it suffer the same fate as many other wearable tech products that haven’t taken failed spectacularly?
Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft’s AI Backpack
Microsoft’s patent for an AI-powered backpack with a slew of novel features was approved last week by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
According to the patent application, the AI-powered backpack “may include sensors, such as a microphone and camera”, and will be able to recognize “contextual voice commands” that include a “non-explicit reference to an object in an environment”.
The first diagram in the patent application shows it being worn by a skier, who is advised by the backpack to avoid a nearby out-of-bounds area.
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Another shows a person looking at a poster for an upcoming concert, and booking tickets by asking the backpack.
It says further along in the patent that the product may include a GPS unit, a compass for sensing cardinal direction, a thermometer and a barometer.
According to the application, the backpack would also include biometric sensors that can measure heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. The backpack may even be able to be aware of its own contents via RFID tags.
Although the backpack seems to be built with the capacity to collect a lot of biometric data about wearers, there are some privacy stipulations mentioned.
Microsoft suggests, for instance, that the backpack could encrypt user data, have stringent rules around how long it can store it, and only perform specific functions with express consent from the wearer.
This is just a prototype, of course – and it would be somewhat surprising if Microsoft was planning on storing every user’s data locally.
Wearable Tech: A Hit and Miss Story
“Wearable tech” is a category of products that includes some of the world’s most fascinating technological inventions, but is also littered with catastrophic failures.
The Logbar Ring – designed to give users the power to control a range of technological appliances via hand gesture commands – is often described as one of the worst products ever made.
But it’s not just small wearable tech products that haven’t succeeded – who can forget Google Glass, which failed to secure widespread uptake due to poor battery life, sub-par functionality and a hefty price tag.
Whether Microsoft’s AI-powered backpack would go down well isn’t clear from the patents.
There’s an argument that it could have niche appeal for extreme sports junkies. As the diagram in the patent suggests, skiers may benefit from safety information and data about the surrounding terrain.
However, as is the case with other types of wearable tech, there are a myriad of privacy concerns that the manufacturers will have to deal with.
Besides, would you really ask your backpack to book a concert ticket, or would you just whip out your mobile phone? And would you feel comfortable speaking out loud, in public, to your backpack?
However capable the backpack ends up being, there will be challenging obstacles that this type of tech would have to face if it went to market.