Hello from FedInvent,
Things were slow in the federal patent ecosphere on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. The USPTO granted 7,268 patents. One hundred thirty-nine of the patents benefitted from taxpayer funding. The FedInvent Report is here. For readers who like to browse by department, start here.
The Metaverse for Adults (And Surgeons)
Mark Zuckerberg has staked his fortunes on the emergence of the metaverse. The metaverse is a catch-all term for new immersive technology and synthetic environments that blur the line between where the internet ends and the real world begins. Mr. Zuckerberg has said it will take about ten years for the virtual worlds for work and play to evolve. The leading edge of these virtual worlds are games and meeting with virtual avatars. (After two years of Zoom meetings, it isn't clear how this will go over, especially when you need to create a "business avatar" for your professional life.)
Federal metaverse innovators focus on the nexus of the virtual and physical worlds. These innovators are focusing on metaverse inventions that can be commercialized now.
One of the industrial applications developed by federal innovators extends simulator technology by adding both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) capabilities. The goal is to use these enhanced configurations to deliver better training on complex and dangerous equipment at a lower cost. The technology enables immersive pseudo-hands-on training before a trainee even touches a helicopter. The pilot program for helicopter maintenance training using a combination of augmented reality and simulator technology cut training time from 18 weeks to ten weeks. One technology futurist noted how cool it is that trainees can have their own helicopter and take it home to practice after work.
One of the emerging metaverse technologies funded by taxpayer dollars is augmented reality (AR) surgical navigation in medicine. The technology provides surgeons with precise imaging guidance—a piece of the metaverse for surgeons.
Early augmented reality surgical navigation used a series of computer screens that the surgeon used to see the patient's diagnostic image scans and navigational assistance data. The newer approach to surgical AR creates a more immersive experience. Instead of a series of screens, the new technology relies on an augmented reality headset. These are wearable, wireless headsets. Unlike gaming virtual reality headsets, these AR devices are "see-through" devices. See-through augmented reality headsets are a mixed or extended reality technology that enables the surgeon to see virtual content — medical and diagnostic imaging data — through a headset in which the real world — the patients and the operating field — remains visible.
This week an interdisciplinary team of inventors from Washington University in St. Louis received 11310485, "Goggle Imaging Systems and Methods." Dr. Samuel Achilefu, an inventor with 65 U.S. patents and recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine, led the team. Dr. Achilefu developed cancer-avid materials and a wearable cancer-imaging goggle system that highlights cancer cells, providing real-time guidance to surgeons in the operating room to ensure the complete removal of cancerous tissue. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) funded this work.
Surgery is dependent on the surgeon's vision. Human vision renders different body tissues in a limited palette of various shades of pink and red, thereby limiting the visual contrast available to the operating surgeon. Healthy tissue, anatomic variations, and diseased states are seen as slight discolorations relative to each other, and differences are inherently limited in dynamic range. The contrast between neoplastic and normal tissues is difficult to see. The human eye cannot detect the contrast signals with high sensitivity in the operating room. (Neoplastic tissue is an abnormal mass of tissue that forms when cells grow and divide more than they should or do not die when they should. This tissue may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).) The surgeon's challenge is to avoid removing healthy tissue while ensuring that all of the malignant tissue is removed. To remove cancerous tissue, the surgeon needs to be able to see it.
To overcome this issue, the U Wash goggles have three image modes:
A Far- or Near-Infrared (NIR) Image;
A visible Light Image; and,
A hybrid near-infrared/visible light.
The image modes enable the surgeon to optimize their view of the surgical field. In addition, the invention supports autofocus, a necessary feature for real-time use of the goggles.
The Wash U goggle also enables the user to view a subject in any image mode or combination of image modes, including, for example, photoacoustic images, interference images, optical coherence tomography images, diffusion optical tomography images, polarization images, ultrasound images, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images, nuclear images (e.g., positron emission tomography (PET) images, single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) images), computed tomography (CT) images, gamma-imaging, and X-ray images.
The novel goggles enable the surgeon to view the patient's diagnostic imaging and the patient simultaneously. The invention includes half-transparent mirrors. The half-transparent mirrors are used to reflect computer-generated images into the eyes of the surgeon, combining real and virtual world views. The real-world view and computer-generated images are electronically combined. The real and virtual world images are in digital see-through mode, reducing the lag time between the real and virtual world image display.
The U Wash inventors are not alone in augmented reality surgical navigation. The University of Alabama with Emory University piloted orthopedic shoulder replacement using Google Glass, and Stanford University is developing its own device. Johns Hopkins is piloting a heads-up display for orthopedic surgery.
Head-mounted displays using three-dimensional imaging data can help surgeons improve imaging and operative techniques, minimize incisions and reduce the complexity of the surgery. Another option is to use virtual three-dimensional imaging and "maps" that can be overlaid onto the patient's body during surgery.
Federal funding is helping researchers develop a variety of surgical navigation tools that use a combination of augmented reality, virtual reality, diagnostic imaging, wireless technology, and fast networks like 5G and new contrast and fluorescence technology to improve surgical outcomes. Instead of building technology for meetings between your personal avatar and your team, the medical metaverse is building technology that can improve surgical outcomes and save lives.
(Wash U’s representative drawing looks like my butcher. Kind of scary.)
Please see our August 17, 2021 newsletter, "The Metaverse Is Trending," for more information on innovation for the federal metaverse.
Down Stream Federal Funding
Finding all the contracts and grants where taxpayer money is funding research and development gets complex when the funding vehicle is a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). Federal funding of innovation is complex, and fluid federal funding is. Here is an example.
This week there is another new patent that was funded by PowerAmerica. Virginia Tech received U.S. patent 11290022, "Bidirectional Architectures with Partial Energy Processing for DC/DC Converters." The government interest statement points to a PowerAmerica grant.
PowerAmerica is a non-profit organization created to manage R&D funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) to accelerate the adoption of advanced semiconductor components made with silicon carbide and gallium nitride for a wide range of products and systems. DOE inked a CRADA with North Carolina State University to operate the program. Other entities join PowerAmerica. Members can bid on R&D funding opportunities that operate much like government contracts, with the terms and conditions and representations and certifications for federal contracts flowing down to these organizations. Some members are academic. Some are public sector businesses. Some are FFRDCs. It is. Who's Who of federally funded innovation. (You can see the list here.)
NC State issues PowerAmerican subcontracts using its own contract numbering scheme to add to the fun.
PowerAmerica is also a member of Manufacturing USA. According to its website, Manufacturing USA® is a national network created to secure U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing through large-scale public-private collaboration on technology, supply chain, and workforce development. The 16 manufacturing innovation institutes (sponsored by either the U.S. Department of Commerce, Defense, or Energy) bring together member organizations. Members include manufacturers of all sizes, academia, and government to work on major research and development projects relevant to industry and train people on advanced manufacturing skills. (But if you look at the Manufacturing USA website, it says there are 14 institutes, and in other places, it says 13.)
The Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology runs the program. NIST is a physical sciences laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission is to promote American innovation and industrial competitiveness. But some of the institutes are funded by other agencies. They have their own long list of partners from the academy, business, and the federal innovation complex. Some of the institutes enable FFRDCs to bid on their R&D projects to add to the fun.
It gets complicated fast. For now, we've parked Virginia Tech's new patent in the non-profit organization category. When we get done figuring out the web of FFRDC inventions, we'll get back to this group of institutes. In the meantime, congratulations to the inventors at Virginia Tech.
Patents By the Numbers
On Tuesday, April 19, 2022, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued 7,268 patents. One hundred thirty-nine (139) of these patents benefitted from taxpayer funding. Here is how they break down.
One hundred thirty (130) patents have Government Interest Statements.
Thirty-two (32) have a government agency as an applicant or an assignee.
A federal department is the only assignee on 15 patents.
The 139 new patents have 158 department-level funding citations.
These patents are the work of 540 inventors.
The 513 American inventors come from 31 states and the District of Columbia.
The 27 foreign inventors come from ten (10) countries.
There are 79 patents (57%) where at least one assignee is a college or university, the HERD.
Six (6) patents resulted from the collaboration between two or more universities.
Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) received 15 patents. One of this week's patents was funded by an FFRDC.
Nine (9) patents were assigned Y CPC symbols indicating that the invention may be useful in mitigating the impact of climate change.
The Big Three States
This week's top three states are the usual mix.
California has 35 first-named inventors and 129 total inventors.
Massachusetts has 12 first-named inventors and 65 total inventors.
Maryland has eight first-named inventors and 21 total inventors.
Patent Count By Department
Count By Technology Center
There is one Re-Exam patent among this week's taxpayer-funded patents.
The Health Complex
This Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the institutes at the National Institutes of Health, and other subagencies that are part of HHS — the Health Complex funded 60 new patents with 189 separate funding references. The details are in the Health Complex panel in the FedInvent Patent Report.
The Health Complex Year-To-Date
The year-to-date counts for Health Complex patents can be found here. You'll find both the bar chart and the data table showing the institutes and HHS agencies and their patent count for 2022.
As of April 19, 2022, 805 patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2022 indicate that the inventors received funding from the Department of Health and Human Services or one of its subagencies. These patents include 2,594 different funding citations indicating that the inventor(s) received either a grant or a contract from the U.S. government that resulted in the patented invention.
Before We Go
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FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays for. FedInvent is a work in progress. Please reach out if you have questions or suggestions. You can reach us at email@example.com.
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