Microsoft will drop support for the Cortana app in Windows before the end of this year, but it may be working on a new digital assistant for wearables. The company has filed a patent application for an AI-powered smart backpack.
The proposed backpack would have a camera, microphone and other sensors to collect visual and audio data from the surroundings. It could then use this contextual data to complete voice commands given by the user.
According to the patent filing, the backpack could provide navigation assistance, add calendar events, compare prices while shopping, and more. It would access the user’s data to help provide relevant information.
Microsoft notes that many current digital assistants are limited to the home and aren’t as helpful on-the-go. This backpack aims to bring more portable, context-aware AI.
First, a digital assistant consistent with the present concepts is available with a wearable that is worn by the user.
Second, a user can interact with the digital assistant hands-free using voice commands and one or more of auditory feedback, visual feedback, and/or haptic feedback without distracting the user away from the current task at hand.
Third, the digital assistant can perceive the user’s surroundings and thus is context-aware, enabling the user to provide contextual commands to the digital assistant.
The user could activate the backpack’s AI via buttons on the straps, with different taps and holds triggering different functions. Potential use cases include asking for directions hands-free while walking or asking the backpack to identify an item while shopping and look up reviews.
It shows Microsoft’s interest in expanding AI capabilities into wearables beyond watches and glasses. The patent reinforces Microsoft’s broader efforts to integrate AI across its products and services, from Office 365 to Bing. However, it also illustrates the experimental side of AI development. Talking backpacks are an accessible way to showcase AI’s potential.
Depending on the complexity of the environmental context and/or the sophistication of the artificial intelligence engine, the user may adjust the level of detail in the contextual voice command.
For example, the user may specify, “Hey Backpack, add this poster to my calendar.” Or if there are two posters aligned vertically, the user 102 may specify, “Hey Assistant, add the bottom poster to my calendar.
Even if the product never reaches the market, Microsoft aims to bring context-aware voice assistants and other AI technologies into consumer products.