Hairstyles for Avatars

Patents from the Federal Innovation Ecosphere for July 21, 2021

Hello from FedInvent,

It was a slow Tuesday in the federal innovation ecosphere. On Tuesday, July 27, 2021, only 98 new federally funded patents out of the 5,817 granted on Tuesday. 

This week things are taking a digital turn. In the mix this week is a patent funded by the Army-funded USC Institute for Creative Technologies focused on making virtual and augmented reality humanoids more real.  The National Security Division of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory received a patent on using Natural Language Processing to find disinformation on social media (just throw a digital dart and you’ll hit plenty of it),  

There is also a significant invention on rootkit detection system (11074345) to continuously hunt for malware using the detection methods to identify software threats that were not previously known, or have become obfuscated. The system identifies the malware on the monitored device without processing data associated with prior identification of the malware or identifying a source of the malware or identifying a location of the malware on the monitored device.  The invention creates a way to cut to the chase. Here is the malware.  What do you want to do next? This type of invention is an important addition to the arsenal of tools needed to protect US critical infrastructure.

There are new additions to quantum computing, and additive manufacturing is back.  There are two mechanical inventions of note.  We have four Hiding in Plain Sight candidates.  Three of the four were easy to figure out.  This week there was only one Intelligence Community patent, 11075314 funded by NSA.

We report on two start-ups that used their federal funding, talent, and expertise to launch new ventures.  A nice return on the taxpayer investment in their inventions.

Here is what we found this week.  

Take Me To The Data First


Hair Matters In the Metaverse — Read This Patent

11074751, "3D hair synthesis using volumetric variational autoencoders" is enabling technology for three-dimensional hair modeling of avatar hairstyles. No bad hair days in the metaverse.

This patent is the work of researchers from the Vision and Graphics Lab at USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT). The Institute for Creative Technologies is funded by the Army Research Laboratory. ICT brings together film and game industry artists and computer and social scientists to study and develop immersive media for military training, health therapies, education, and other virtual reality applications.

The inventors, Drs. Li, Hu, and Saito have patented technology that makes avatars more human and more diverse in their appearance.  The inventors believe their invention has the potential to facilitate the mass adoption of new 3D avatar-driven applications, including personalized gaming, communication in virtual reality (VR), and social media applications. 

Two of the three inventors, Dr. Li and Dr. Hu,  are the founders of Pinscreen, a start-up that builds advanced and photorealistic AI-driven virtual avatar technologies.  The third, Dr. Saito, is a Research Scientist at Facebook Reality Labs in Pittsburgh.

If you want the full-on technical geekery on this invention, the inventors' academic paper is here.  If you want to have more fun, download Pinscreen’s Instant 3D Avatars to your smartphone and create your own avatar.  This will give you a feel for the importance of an avatar not having a bad hair day.

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Is It Trusted Or Is It Clickbait?

This week, Dr. Svitlana Volkova, an expert in computational social science and computational linguistics in the Data Sciences and Analytics Group, National Security Directorate, Pacific Northwest National Lab received US Patent 11074500, "Prediction of social media postings as trusted news or as types of suspicious news." Dr. Volkova invented a system for predicting social media postings as being trusted news or a type of suspicious news.  The invention is based on a unique neural network architecture that learns from a combined representation of social media post content and a vector representation of communications among connected users.   Clickbait is among the targets. The technology seeks to discriminate between clickbait posts with eye-catching headlines designed to lure you into clicking the link (and make money for the firm that placed the content in your internet line of sight), and trusted news posts.

The invention uses, "…a linguistically-infused neural network architecture that can classify social media posts retweeted from news accounts into verified and suspicious categories — propaganda, hoax, satire, and clickbait. The architecture incorporates tweet text, social graph (a network of users associated with a social media posting), linguistic markers of bias and subjectivity, and moral foundation signals to assess the trust level of a news item.

If you want more insight into the conundrum of how social media and the explosion of "news" collide read Martin Gurri’s "Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium."  Mr. Gurri’s book examines the impact of a relentless stream of information pouring onto our devices and screens delivered by the internet and social media platforms and its impact on democracy and our political life.  Mr. Gurri is a geopolitical analyst and student of new media and a former CIA agent dedicated to the analysis of open media. His book amplifies the importance of Dr. Volkova’s work. Both the patent and the book are good reads.


A Safer Move

On the mechanical front, U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity funded and Cornerstone Research Group Inc. invented new configurable technology to stabilize patients during transport to help reduce spinal cord injury (SCI) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).  US 11071663, "Human stabilization platforms and related methods." notes, "…with the increasing prevalence of SCI, TBI, and polytrauma patients due to the expanded use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on military forces, a renewed transport platform design may improve the specific transport, safety, care, and comfort needs of both the injured and caregivers."  

This invention makes this safer.


Creepy Crawlers

Then there’s the matter of the bedbugs.  Some background, "Bed bugs have made a dramatic comeback in the U.S. in recent years, infesting everything from homes and hotels to schools, movie theaters, and hospitals. Although not known to transmit disease, their bites can cause burning, itching, swelling, and psychological distress.  It helps to catch infestations early, but the nocturnal parasites’ ability to hide almost anywhere, breed rapidly, and “hitchhike” from place to place makes detection difficult."  Bedbugs are gross. 

RE48657, Microfabricated surfaces for the physical capture of insects," a sustainable, eco-friendly pesticide-free way to capture and control these insects.  The inventors on this patent are inventors from the University of California and the University of Kentucky. RE48657 is a reexamination of a patent.   The work was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The grant information at the NSF notes there is an acute need to deal with rises in the number of new drug-resistant bacteria and insect infestations such as bed bugs. Nanostructured surfaces may possibly provide environmentally friendly biocapture and bactericidal solutions for these problems."   The inventors mimicked the behavior of plant leaves traditionally used to capture insects and instantiated that knowledge into a new surface. You can read about the research here.   The inventors had two previous patents, 9,468,203 and 9,930,877 if you’d like to take a look.

The conventional wisdom is that when a patent is reexamined it may be an indicia of a potential licensing deal.  Licensees want to make sure the patent is solid before committing to spending money to commercialize the product.  


Ginkgo Bioworks’ Synthetic Biology Innovations

This week US patent 11071963, "Assembly of high fidelity polynucleotides," was granted to Gen9.  The work was funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce.  We knew from our earlier synbio work that Gen9, founded by legendary Harvard geneticist George Church, had been acquired.  Ginkgo Bioworks acquired Gen9 in 2017 to add its DNA synthesis tools and the Gen9 Biofab into the Ginkgo Bioworks foundry enabling the combined firm to improve the speed and capacity for building new organism designs.

The business of engineered biology is ascendant.  According to Barron’s, Ginkgo projected that its cell programming, or foundry revenue, would rise to $1.1 billion in 2025 from $100 million this year.  Ginkgo is due to go public in the current quarter through a merger with Soaring Eagle Acquisition (SRNG), a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Among other things, they have a great phone number 877.HACK.DNA.


The Industrial Internet of Things 

A Startup With a Growing Patent Portfolio

Loci Controls Inc. is a provider of automated landfill gas collection designed for Renewable Natural Gas projects and high-value LFG to electric projects. This week it is adding another patent to its landfill gas (LFG) extractions portfolio. This new patent brings its portfolio up to 15 patents. This week 11072006, "Devices and techniques relating to landfill gas extraction," was granted.  This invention, like the company’s earlier work, features a series of sensors, wireless monitoring technology, and the Cloud. It is an industrial internet of things (IIoT)  bonanza.  Loci Controls was funded by SBIR/STTR  grants from NSF.  Loci Controls makes it easy to find their patents, ten of their 15 patents have the same title.  

Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States right after those pesky methane emitting cows. Learn more at DOE.


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PATENTS BY THE NUMBERS

It is a slow week on the patent front this week. For Tuesday, July 27, 2021, FedInvent identified 98 newly granted taxpayer-funded patents. These patents have 112 references to federal agencies and departments that provided funding to the inventors. Ninety-two (92) of these patents contained government interest statements. Another 22 are patents where the federal government is the assignee or the applicant indicating government ownership of the inventions.

These 98 patents are the work of 381 inventors. Three hundred and seventy-eight (378) of the inventors are American. The American inventors come from 34 states and the District of Columbia. Three foreign inventors come from Canada, Cyprus, and Spain.


TECHNOLOGY CENTERS


THE HERD

HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT ENTITIES

Fifty-three (53) universities or university-affiliated research entities are assignees on today’s 98 patents. We added Dr. Zhao, an independent inventor from Ohio State University. to the list bringing this week’s count of HERD patents to 54.


This Week’s Government Rights Acknowledged Patents

The FedInvent prognosticators are speculating on four patents this week.  Here’s the rundown.

11072536, "Method and process of producing ammonia from methane hydrate," is assigned to the inventor, Dr. Ji-Cheng Zhao.  The research on the use of methane hydrate as a fuel source is in its early stages. Dr. Zhao made his discovery and invention when he was an employee of the federal government.  He is a Professor of Material Science and Engineering at Ohio State University and Program Director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) at the Department of Energy.  Here is a presentation on his work on methane hydrate.    

11073608, "Resolving radar angle ambiguities using a multiple hypothesis tracker," was granted to Raytheon.  Radar technology.  We’ll add this one to the DOD list. 

Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation in Falls Church, VA was granted 11075456 "Printed board antenna system."  The inventors work for Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Torrence, CA. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are both behemoths in the defense contracting business. The two firms are also are frenemies that take turns being the prime contractor and the subcontractor on DOD projects. Torrence, California is the home of Vandenberg Space Force Base, previously Vandenberg Air Force Base. Vandenberg Space Force Base, "is a space launch base, launching spacecraft from the Western Range, and also performs missile testing." Chalk this one up to the Space Force with a few potential points for more work for the Intel Community. 

11075681, "Communication system and method using layered construction of arbitrary unitary matrices," is assigned to Rampart Communications, Inc. in Annapolis, MD. Rampart Communications is another Bayh-Dole scofflaw. Based on technology and location, we will give this one to NSA and DOD and the fine scientists and engineers working at Fort Meade.

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE Y?

Emerging Climate Change Technology

This week there are six newly granted patents containing Y CPC symbols.  All six are related to greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.

We are still perplexed over what is going on with USPTO using these Y classifications to indicate new technologies useful for mitigation of the impact of climate change.  Rather than bloating up the newsletter with the details, you can see this week’s patents in the Emerging Technology section of the FedInvent Patent Report

There are a lot of other interesting inventions in this week’s newly granted taxpayer-funded patents.  Be sure to take a look around here.  You can navigate to the patents you find interesting use The List section of the FedInvent Patent Report.  If you want to explore by department or agency, use the "Patents By Department" section.

That’s it for this Tuesday.  Thanks for reading the FedInvent newsletter.  If you’re not already a subscriber, please consider subscribing.

See you Friday for our analysis of this week’s newly published patent applications.

Until then, have a good week.

The Team at FedInvent.