Patent Pocket: Virtual Assistants, Messenger & Scripted Based VR


Patent Pocket: Virtual Assistants, Messenger & Scripted Based VR

Michael Thomson

*Digitas’ Patent Pocket is an analysis of public patents that key media and tech companies have received approval for that gives brands insights on where they are headed next with their marketing, media, and search products.

In this edition of the Patent Pocket, we explore the role Google is playing for virtual assistants, how Facebook Messenger will play a greater role in branded communications and provide a peak behind the curtain of what Google ‘Zoo’ and ‘Area 120’ have been working on.



With voice-enabled assistants integrated within our phones and homes, the “Age of Assistance” is truly upon us. Not only can they voice back the recipe for Chicken Jambalaya, Google also wants its assistants to enrich our lives.

Through its connectivity and integration into our everyday lives, Google has secured a patent on how it plans to proactively bring these assistants to life by computing and prompting us with content in key moments. Using data from our previous and current behaviors, assistants will detect and recommend solutions to problems.

“So what?” Being able to semantically detect and connect data to determine how to best assist people is an engineering challenge Google thrives on. With so many potential opportunities to assist, the challenge for brands will be how they convince Google’s algorithms that their individual moments of assistance matter the most. The patent talks of determining the most significant moments, much like the “filter bubble” paradigm we see with Facebook’s Newsfeed. 



Retargeting has existed across Facebook for many moons now, but never within the 900 million people strong Messenger app. Using standard pixel tracking, the social network secured a patent to enable advertisers to send messages to people who’ve completed events on a brand’s website. Adding a product to basket, submitting a form, or signing up to a service are all examples where Messenger can be utilized to retarget people.

“So what?” Email user bases are arguably 3x greater than Messenger’s, but generations are growing up with Messenger as their ‘native’ means of communication. Introducing retargeting could open up conversations with brands, including artificially intelligent ones.



Two special teams at Google, called ‘The Zoo’ and ‘Area 120’ are reimagining storytelling. Dubbed ‘hypertelling’, they secured a patent to give consumers full control of 360 video and/or VR experience using script-based ‘decision trees’ where, depending on which direction you select, the narrative adjusts with you. Not only that, the scripts are also cooperative, meaning two people can mold the shared, and their own individual, narrative simultaneously.

“So what?” Personalization takes on a new meaning, giving the consumer the option to shape their own narrative. This gives us an insightful view behind the curtain at Google. Introduce AI into the ‘mix’ and there is a world of opportunity to create endlessly different narratives. Coming to a car manufacturer sometime soon.

Three Takeaways:  

1). Google wants to connect “worldly” subjects with “our” own personal worlds to create proactive ways to ingrain itself deeper within our culture. And assisting people in meaningful ways is Google’s primary use of artificial intelligence, but that intelligence will come at a cost to prospective media buyers.

2). Facebook Messaging is engrained within generations, and retargeting is merely another way to facilitate communication between brand and consumer. Their arsenal to connect people with brands has opportunity well beyond what we’ve seen to date.

3). 60 Second and VR cinematic brand experiences, controlled by individuals and shared with friends, with scripted narratives by AI is a leap into the future. We just need to move past the idea that people look silly when wearing technology in order for it to shape future brand experiences.