5 Of The Strangest Technology Patents Ever Filed

Technically speaking, filing a patent isn't actually that expensive. The fee for filing one yourself is only a few hundred dollars. Of course, then you have to go through a lengthy paperwork process yourself, which is why most inventors choose to hire an attorney to handle it for them. Still, whether you have the cash or the patience, just about anyone can patent whatever random idea pops into their head.

Because of this relative ease, the United States Patent Office has received all manner of unusual submissions over the years from both ambitious inventors and prominent tech companies. Some of these ideas are pretty nifty, but a lot of them are a bit... less so. Whether someone had some idea that they thought would be the next big thing or a major company wanted to get a head start on market trends, these patents serve as a tangible history of unusual innovations. So, here are five of the strangest patents ever filed.

Apple's haptic socks

Every tech giant wants to be the first to stake their claim on the burgeoning virtual and augmented reality scenes. Companies like Apple have been tinkering with eye-based tech to introduce users to virtual worlds, but in the background of all that, it has apparently also been looking to get your feet immersed as well.

In 2021, Apple filed a patent for a "foot-wearable support structure" that would stimulate a user's feet while they engage with VR or AR content. Basically, it was a pair of vibrating socks that would shake the tops and bottoms of your feet in time with... whatever foot-centric content you were playing on an Apple headset. The socks could also come with a pair of raised platforms that could provide a similar level of stimulation. Of course, Apple hasn't released a consumer-ready headset yet, but who knows? Maybe when they do, it'll be accompanied by some fancy socks.

Personalized game characters

The idea of making a character that looks like you in a video game has become a standard fixture of most modern games, and has been so for at least a few console generations. However, back in the 1990s, a coalition of inventors got an idea of how they could implement such a concept a bit more... cheaply.

Filed in 1993 by Kenneth A. Parulski, Hans P. Baumeister, and Richard N. Ellson, their bright idea was to take a picture of a game buyer's face in front of a blue screen, then superimpose that face over the main character's in a game to make the experience feel more "personalized." Also, apparently the patent included a way to print out physical copies of your personalized characters, though what you would do with those copies is anyone's guess. Maybe it'd be like printing stickers off your copy of "Pokémon Snap" at Blockbuster?

Gravity-powered shoe air conditioner

Have you ever been out on a jog on a hot day, and the insides of your shoes become absolutely sweltering? This is why modern running shoes have been designed to wick sweat and generally be more breathable so you don't get a bad case of athlete's foot. But forget all those sensible ideas, what if you could just strap an entire air conditioner to your shoes?

Filed in 1993 by Israel Siegel, this patent outlines a concept for a gravity-powered, shoe-mounted air conditioning system. By strapping a series of pumps and compressors to an average sneaker, alongside a series of air tubes that snake through the inside, you can, in theory, create a cooling breeze inside of your shoes with every step you take. Not only that, but the design also includes heating coils, allowing you to warm up your tootsies on a cold day. Hopefully, it's impact-resistant, lest you set your feet on fire.

Greenhouse helmet

Air quality has been a major concern in the last couple of decades, with the prevalence of carbon emissions and natural disasters turning the air smokey and caustic in metropolitan areas. The best solution for this, of course, is to seek green energy alternatives and combat climate change, but if that ends up falling through, you could always just strap a greenhouse to your head.

Filed in 1985 by Waldemar Anguita, this patent is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: a greenhouse helmet. Specifically, it's a large, clear, dome-like helmet lined with resilient plants like cacti, which regularly provide the wearer with clean oxygen. The helmet also features filters to capture clean air from the outside to supplement the cacti, as well as a speaker and microphone system to ensure everyone can hear about how much you love carting around potted plants on your shoulders.

Sony's interactive advertisements

Nobody likes advertisements because they interrupt our viewing habits and, depending on the ad and platform, can take entirely too long to go away and let you get back to what you were doing. Most ads have a skip button, thankfully, but what would you do if, instead of pushing a button, you had to audibly shout the name of the product being advertised to make it go away?

This was the idea of the patent filed by Sony in 2009. The broad concept is for "interactive advertisements," commercials that double as mini-games for viewers. In the examples provided by the patent, a viewer may receive a McDonald's commercial where they're prompted to throw a pickle on a burger by waving their hand or shouting the word "McDonald's" when directed. Engaging in these shenanigans would either end the ad or make it go faster. In other words, if you want the ad to go away, you have to do a little dance for it. How delightfully dystopian.