5 Most Unusual Technology Patents You’ll Ever See

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In terms of cost, filing a patent isn’t all that expensive. Filing one yourself costs simply a few hundred dollars. Of course, you’ll have to go through a lengthy paperwork procedure on your own, which is why most inventors pay an attorney to do it for them. Nonetheless, whether you have the money or the patience, almost anyone can patent whatever odd thought comes to mind.

Because of this relative accessibility, the US Patent and Trademark Office has received a wide range of unique submissions over the years from both ambitious inventors and well-known technology businesses. Some of these concepts are quite cool, but many of them are… less so. These patents serve as a physical history of unexpected innovations, whether someone had an idea that they felt would be the next great thing or a major firm sought to gain a head start on market trends. So, here are five of the oddest patents ever submitted.

Apple’s Haptic Socks

Every technology behemoth wants to be the first to stake a claim in the expanding virtual and augmented reality landscapes. Companies like Apple have been experimenting with eye-based technology to introduce consumers to virtual worlds, but it appears that it has also been looking to get your feet absorbed.

Apple submitted a patent in 2021 for a “foot-wearable support structure” that would stimulate a user’s feet while engaging with VR or AR content. It was essentially a pair of vibrating socks that shook the tops and soles of your feet in time with… whatever foot-centric content you were watching on an Apple headset. The socks could potentially include a pair of raised platforms that deliver a comparable level of stimulation. Of again, Apple has yet to create a consumer-ready headset, so who knows? Maybe when they do, they’ll wear some beautiful socks.

Personalized Game Characters

Making a video game character that looks like you has become a typical feature of most modern games, and has been for at least a few platform generations. However, in the 1990s, a group of inventors had an idea for how to implement such a concept more… inexpensively.

Kenneth A. Parulski, Hans P. Baumeister, and Richard N. Ellson filed the patent in 1993 with the brilliant idea of photographing a game buyer’s face in front of a blue screen, then superimposing that face over the main character’s in a game to make the experience feel more “personalized.” Also, the patent appears to offer a method for printing tangible copies of your unique characters, though what you would do with those copies is unknown. Perhaps it’d be similar like printing stickers from your copy of “Pokémon Snap” at Blockbuster?

Gravity-Powered Shoe Air Conditioner

Have you ever gone for a jog on a hot day and the insides of your shoes became sweltering? This is why current running shoes are made to wick moisture and be more breathable in general, preventing athlete’s foot. But what if you could just strap a whole air conditioner to your shoes?

This patent, filed in 1993 by Israel Siegel, describes a design for a gravity-powered, shoe-mounted air conditioning system. You can create a cooling wind within your shoes with every step you take by strapping a set of pumps and compressors to an average sneaker, along with a series of air tubes that snake around the interior. Furthermore, the design has heating coils, letting you to warm up your tootsies on a cold day. Hopefully, it’s impact-resistant, or you’ll catch fire.

Greenhouse Helmet

Air quality has been a major worry in recent decades, with the prevalence of carbon emissions and natural disasters making the air in urban places smoky and caustic. Of course, the greatest option is to explore green energy alternatives and combat climate change, but if that fails, you could always strap a greenhouse to your helmet.

This patent, filed in 1985 by Waldemar Anguita, is pretty much what it says on the tin: a greenhouse helmet. It’s a huge, translucent, dome-like helmet coated with resilient plants like cacti that routinely deliver clean oxygen to the wearer. The helmet also has filters to catch pure air from outside to supplement the cactus, as well as a speaker and microphone system to guarantee that everyone knows how much you enjoy carrying potted plants on your shoulders.

Sony’s Interactive Advertisements

Nobody enjoys commercials since they disrupt our viewing patterns and, depending on the ad and platform, might take far too long to disappear and allow you to return to your work. Most ads, thankfully, include a skip button, but what if, instead of pressing a button, you had to shout the name of the product being advertised to get it to stop?

This was the concept behind Sony’s patent application in 2009. The broad idea is for “interactive advertisements,” which are commercials that also function as mini-games for viewers. According to the patent’s illustrations, a viewer may see a McDonald’s commercial in which they are prompted to throw a pickle on a burger by waving their hand or uttering the term “McDonald’s” when directed. Participating in these shenanigans would either end the ad or speed it up. In other words, if you want the ad to go away, you must perform a little dance. How wonderfully dystopian.

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