IBM Corp. registered the most U.S. patents than any other corporation in 2012, including at least three that could be used to create a futuristic cyborg.
Well, it’s possible. Out of the 6,478 patents that big blue registered in the U.S. last year, a few of them definitely focus on giving computers more human-like capabilities. Combining them and projecting into the future, you could imagine that someone like Star Trek’s Commander Data could be the result of intellectual groundwork like this.
IBM’s research efforts have been impressive for the past two decades, topping the list of patents earned every year since 1993. IBM says that its total of more than 67,000 patents registered since then is greater that the patents of Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EMC, HP, Intel, Oracle, and Symantec combined. In 2012, IBM was followed by a series of technology firms in the top patent rankings, with Samsung at second with 5,081 patents and Canon third with 3,174 patents.
Here’s the patents that could one day help create your robot butler:
System and method for providing answers to questions does exactly what it sounds like. Much like you can now ask Siri on your iPhone about the weather, IBM has developed a semantic system for understanding questions asked by a person and then providing an answer in context. But IBM’s system aims to be much more flexible than Siri, generating “candidate answers” that are the most likely responses even as the question is being asked, then delivering the answer that best fits the inquiry. It’s how IBM’s Watson creamed Ken Jennings on Jeopardy! U.S. Patent #8,275,803 filed September 25, 2012.
Electronic learning synapse with spike-timing dependent plasticity using unipolar memory-switching elements is an effort to mimic the human brain with a computer. More specifically, it’s a system for microchips to emulate your brain’s synapses. It’s part of the research that’s come out of IBM’s SyNAPSE project that is working to reproduce the architecture of the brain, which is backed by Pentagon funding to the tune of $21 million in its current phase. U.S. Patent #8,250,010 filed Aug. 21, 2012.
Thin substrate fabrication using stress-induced substrate spalling is a low-cost semiconductors material to allow for thin and flexible products. Sure that could mean biomedical or wearable technology applications, but it could also mean some sort of electricity-carrying android skin. Not only will this manufacturing method be capable of making a solar-powered cell, it will do it cheaply. U.S. Patent #8,247,261 filed August 21, 2012.
If you’re wondering what the Canadian contribution to IBM’s patent haul is – 225 patents for 2012. That’s up from 219 patents from Canada in 2011, and Canada is the third- best contributor country to IBM’s patent count. To celebrate its intellectual property abundance, IBM released this infographic recapping 20 years of patents: