Two weeks ago, Sony prompted guffaws all over the Internet when they unveiled their latest invention: SmartWig. Developed by Hiroaki Tobita and Takuya Kuzi, the SmartWig is basically an EEG interface glued to an artificial coiffure that can connect to a smartphone through Bluetooth.
That was bad enough, but as if to outdo their Japanese rival, Microsoft blew the SmartWig out of the water with an even more ridiculous patent called the Mood Bra. The patent essentially described an EKG attached to a bra, which also connects to a smartphone by Bluetooth. The company posits that it could be used to help women track their moods, thereby eliminating things like emotional overeating.
Yet these patents aren’t as absurd as they initially appear. Not only are both of these products plausible, there’s also a chance that someday, Microsoft and Sony will be making money off of them. How? Welcome to the weird world of technology patents.
Outside of being strange ideas for consumer products, both Sony’s SmartWig and Microsoft’s Mood Bra have one big thing in common: they aim to take existing proven medical technology and find ways to commercialize it. In the SmartWig’s case, Sony imagines a consumer EEG that can measure your brain waves by pressing a sensor against your scalp. With the Mood Bra, Microsoft has thought up a way to mass market an EKG by placing a sensor near your heart.
So Sony probably never started out by saying, “Let’s make a wig with a computer inside.” Likewise, no one at Microsoft ever said, “Let’s make a smart bra.” Rather, they started from the other side. Their researchers asked themselves what a consumer product using an EEG or EKG would be like, how people could be convinced to wear it, and what sort of functionality it would have given these constraints. A consumer EEG would, by its nature, need to be a hat, a headband, or a wig, where as an EKG would have to be something worn close to the heart. … (Read more)