A new patent from IBM could bring new meaning to instant coffee. The patent describes a drone that could detect when a person is tiring and fly over with a cup of coffee on demand—so no need to worry if yours is the one street corner without a Starbucks.
In its patent, IBM imagines a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, flying over a group of people and:
“scanning the people, using one or more sensors connected to the UAV…which identifies an individual among the people that may have a predetermined cognitive state, based on sensor data and flying the UAV to the individual that may have a predetermined cognitive state to deliver the drink.”
In other words, the drone would be able to detect barometers of a person’s energy such as blood pressure, pupil dilation, and facial expressions, and then give them a caffeinated boost as a result. These metrics could be tracked through a Fitbit-style device or even a person’s digital calendar, noting when their appointments are during the day.
IBM’s scenario offers multiple options for coffee delivery. The coffee drone could be also be summoned by a hand motion, for example. There are also multiple options for delivering the coffee itself. One hypothetical has coffee poured directly into a person’s mug, while another offers a full service approach by delivering coffee in a sealed bag to protect the recipient from getting poured on from above.
IBM is also pondering drone delivery for another popular drink: alcohol. In this version of the drone, its biometric-reading features would act in reverse. Detecting unsteadiness or slurred speech, the drone could tell when to cut off an inebriated customer.
Patents do not indicate that a company yet possesses the technology they are patenting, nor does it suggest that the company might create such a product in the future. Similar to Amazon’s patent for underwater warehouses, IBM is merely indicating that there is some internal interest in the idea. Nothing may come of it.
Beyond theatrical drinking, there is also the somewhat dystopian idea that such a drone could eliminate the coffee break. For decades, science fiction has predicted automated eating as a way for corporations to control assembly lines. Perhaps the most famous of these was in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 silent film Modern Times, where a machine that does the work of eating for workers in the name of efficiency goes horribly wrong.