Efficient package delivery is one of the keystones of Amazon’s retailing business, and a newly issued patent opens up a new frontier in efficiency: augmented reality.
The patent, published today, outlines a scheme for alerting a delivery agent about the best times to make a delivery, the best routes to take and even the best places for parking — all overlaid on the agent’s AR headset.
Why do it, in this age of navigation apps?
“Experienced delivery agents often learn information about the delivery routes and delivery areas that is not reflected in a delivery route generated by a routing application,” Amazon inventor Robert Niewiadomski writes in his application, filed back in 2016.
Such lore can include gate codes, the precise location of the preferred delivery entrance and “the most efficient or best places to park when making a delivery to a destination or a group of destinations,” Niewiadomski notes.
“If a new or different delivery agent were assigned to the delivery route, he or she might not be as efficient as the previous delivery agent due to a lack of awareness of the additional route information,” he says in the patent application.
That’s where AR can come to the rescue.
The delivery company’s computer servers would keep track of where the agents are and where they’re due to go, and match up those routes against a database compiled from previous deliveries. The agents can make note of new tips they come across, and have those added to the database for the next delivery.
As the agents go about their rounds, the delivery tips and cautionary notes (for example, watch out for the guard dog) pop up via a wireless connection to their AR headsets. You could even have the location of the key box flash on and off as you’re looking at the entryway to an apartment building.
It should go without saying that Amazon would be a prime candidate to use this type of application. But even if Amazon wins a patent for a technology that seems relevant to its operations, that’s no guarantee it’ll ever make it to the real world. (Just ask Jeff Bezos about his airbag-equipped smartphone.)
Other organizations are already taking advantage of AR in the workplace. Here’s just a sampling:
- NASA has used Microsoft’s HoloLens AR system to design its 2020 Mars rover.
- The U.S. Army bought 100,000 HoloLens headsets to study how AR can help soldiers get ready for battle.
- Walmart, Amazon’s rival, is testing new store managers with AR exercises.
- Boeing uses AR to guide workers who build and service planes. So does Airbus.
- Google has revived its Google Glass project for enterprise applications.
- RealWear, a startup based in Vancouver, Wash., recently raised $80 million for a head-mounted AR system that’s designed for the workplace.
For what it’s worth, Amazon isn’t commenting about this specific patent … but if your delivery agent shows up wearing an augmented-reality headset while dropping off a package, be sure to let us know.