Patent filings, we don't take so seriously. One of Japan's richest men, with the potential to call on an army of lawyers to defend what he claims is his invention, we probably ought to. Masayoshi Son, the billionaire (and philanthropic) CEO of SoftBank, has given a two-hour speech to his shareholders about his technological predictions for the next 30 years, and about halfway through he describes a familiar idea: augmented reality glasses that can understand what a person is saying and provide subtitles as a visual overlay. At one point, he specifically mentions protecting the concept:
"By the way, we've already taken out a patent on this -- translation glasses with captions." (1:22:49 in the video at the source link.)
We think we may have found the patent application in question, submitted in 2010 by SoftBank Mobile Corp. It does show a translation function similar -- but not totally identical -- to what's been shown off in a recent Project Glass promo video, in which a guy translated his own words using Google's specs. In any case, the whole patent system is so esoteric that it's impossible to predict what ideas will clash and what won't, but it's worth bearing in mind how Masayoshi Son first became rich: he sold a translation device patent to Sharp for $1 million. What are the odds on that?