Tuesday is the only day of the week when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publishes its weekly Gazette listing the inventions for which patents have been granted during the prior week. With Tuesday, December 24th being Christmas Eve, the USPTO gave a large number of people and companies an early Christmas gift.

Patents for vehicular control were prominent, as well as a wide range of control system processes, all of which incorporated sensors to provide real time monitoring of human and machine performance. Sensors were ubiquitous especially in patents covering system monitoring services.

Apple-watchers were rewarded with two patents quickly picked up and reported by the technology press outlets. The first, 8614693, covers touch and hover signal drift compensation. “Hovering,” a near contact interaction with smartphone screens initially introduced by Samsung, is purportedly improved in various ways by the technology described in the patent, primarily to stabilize and improve the user – device interaction. An example of stabilization is helping people with physical conditions that result in shaking hands to make legible entries in the near contact, or hover, position. Stabilized hovering eliminates the high degree of accuracy required by the touch of a finger or stylus to the screen when typing in information.

The second patent awarded to Apple, 8615290, covers a seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor for smartphones, and potential use in smaller devices such as the iWatch, where the form factor better fits the intended use of the monitor (worn on the wrist with direct contact to the pulse).

My favorite this week is 8615319, for an interactive knitting and crocheting system. What catches the eye is that at least one of the needles has an embedded motion-based wireless sensor that interacts with a computer-based application, providing immediate feedback for incorrect movements. Patented by a woman in Thunder Bay, Canada (a city of about 100,000 people on Lake Superior noted as the shipping gateway for Canadian malted barley used by brewers worldwide), it appears to be a self-contained training device for people wanting to learn how to knit or crochet.

I certainly wish the patentee all the best for success getting to market, but I wonder about the adoption rate given the nature of the traditional way these skills are learned. My mother instructed my sister, as did my wife’s mother with her. They in turn instructed their daughters. Apart from the instruction, what I observed was the mother – daughter bonding that took place over the hours spent at the task together. There was a lot more going on during “instruction” than learning to knit. Of course, this is only a personal observation, but one that seems to be broadly anecdotal. Can a device provide what Mom passed along to Sis?

This is to me a good example of the limits of technology applied to a social learning situation. Smart devices and applications can teach skills, and bridge communication gaps between people so that skills can be learned together. Smart devices can afford an instantaneity between people that acts to promote the shared knowledge of things. Can it, however, enable a unique bonding experience where the skill is secondary to the passing of a mother’s wisdom to a child?

What do you think?