And today in my occasionally recurring segment, “The Future Is Now,” we have this: IBM has dreamed up a coffee drone that will deliver you coffee before you even know you need it… or at least, it will if it becomes a reality. The drone doesn’t exist yet — but the concept for it does. In fact, IBM was just granted a patent for it. I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure if a drone that can anticipate a human’s need or desire for coffee and then promptly deliver a cup of the stuff is really something we need (Skynet? Is that you?)… but the part of me that loves both ridiculous things and coffee kind of can’t help but think, YES, PLEASE, I ABSOLUTELY WANT THIS IN MY LIFE.
According to the patent document, which is available to view in it entirety thanks to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, IBM filed for the patent at the end of 2015; it was finally granted on Aug. 7, 2018. (These things take time.) The device as described would operate pretty much the way you’d expect; an “unmanned aerial vehicle,” usually abbreviated to UAV and colloquially known as a drone, would be capable of carrying coffee — or any other drink, for that matter — to “an area including people” and delivering it to a human located there.
Yep. Kinda like that.
As VICE Munchies points out, IBM isn’t the first entity to have conceived of a coffee-delivery drone; several other companies, including Matternet in Switzerland, Coffee Copter in Amsterdam, and Wing in Australia, have tested similar devices and systems in recent years. But what IBM’s version has that these others don’t, observes Munchies writer Danielle Wayba, is smart technology — and that makes all the difference. IBM’s drone, you see, would “use sensors to scan the people for an individual who have gestured that they would like the drink, or for whom an electronic analysis of sensor data indicates to be in a predetermined cognitive state,” as the patent document puts it — that is, it would be able to read your body language, as well as draw data from devices like Fitbits. The previously-demonstrated coffee drones just acted as robot delivery drivers; this one would actually determine whether or not you wanted or needed a jolt of caffeine, then either deliver one if it thought you could benefit from it, or pass you over if it didn’t.
Is the whole idea of a drone being able to scan for all these details about us a little troubling, even if it’s under the guise of delivering coffee? I mean, yeah; like many recent technological inventions, the privacy concerns are real. But again, right now, it’s just an idea, not a reality; what’s more, it might never become a reality. Said IBM spokesperson Amanda Carl to USA Today, “IBM encourages our researchers to pursue their interests even though not all of their inventions become commercial products. By publishing their inventions as patents, we give our researchers the recognition they deserve and make their work public, so it can inspire new innovations.” So, y’know… there’s that.
The patent document, by the way, is an incredible read; it’s officially for “DRONE DELIVERY OF COFFEE BASED ON A COGNITIVE STATE OF AN INDIVIDUAL” — which is maybe the most hilarious way to say, “It knows when you want coffee and reacts accordingly” anyone could possibly have come up with — and includes this gem of a diagram:
I mean… tell me you didn’t look at that illustration and read something like this into it:
EXT. – A WASTELAND. The time of day is indeterminable.
[PERSON A and PERSON B trudge through the wasteland. Suddenly, PERSON B collapses, unable to move any further.]
Person A: [Gesturing wildly] Coffee Drone! Please, come quickly! My friend is in great need! They will surely perish without your assistance!
Person B: …
[PERSON A takes PERSON B’s hands.]
Person A: It is OK, my friend! The Coffee Drone will heal all your ills!
Person B: …
[The COFFEE DRONE descends, god-like, from the sky, bearing the gift of a GLORIOUS cup of CAFFEINE.]
Person A: Rejoice! For the Coffee Drone has granted us the elixir of life! It is a great and benevolent overlord. Drink deep, my friend, for now, you will live forever!
Person B: …Where did the heck did this third person come from?