Apple patent filing points directly to 'iWatch' concept with flexible touchscreen display

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
A patent application discovered by AppleInsider on Thursday reveals Apple is indeed investigating a wearable accessory device that not only boasts a full-length flexible touchscreen display, but conforms to a user's body through the use of a "slap bracelet" mechanism.



Apple first filed its application for a "Bi-stable spring with flexible display" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August of 2011, describing a wearable accessory device that can be easily worn on a user's wrist or other body part. When active, the unit connects to a portable device via various communications protocols like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to show relevant information in real time on a flexible display that can wrap fully around a user's wrist. While the device itself can conform to nearly any appendage, a suitable location would be a user's wrist.

Instead of using clips or other cumbersome methods of attachment, Apple proposes the use of a bi-stable spring:
The most recent widespread use of such a device was the slap bracelet, also called the slap wrap. The slap bracelet consists of layered flexible steel bands sealed within a fabric cover. Typical slap bracelets are roughly one inch in width by nine inches in length. In a first equilibrium position they can be flat. The second equilibrium is typically reached by slapping the flat embodiment across the wrist, at which point the bracelet curls around the wrist and stays relatively secure in a roughly circular position.
According to the filing, in its simplest form, the proposed invention involves embedding a flexible display, along with the necessary electronic components, into a conventional slap bracelet. The bi-stable spring would be made out of thin steel, which would then be wrapped in a fabric covering and heat sealed. The display would be overlaid with an adhesive over one side of the bracelet, while the device's logic board, battery and other parts are mounted to one end. By positioning the components in this manner, the bracelet would cover the vital electronics module when it is being worn.

Wearable Device
Source: USPTO


In another embodiment, the invention calls for a more robust design in which the flexible display is mounted directly to the bracelet and "framed" by a thicker, more comfortable fabric covering. Switches and critical electronics should also be resistant to fatigue, the patent notes, as the bracelet switches from a convex shape to a concave configuration depending on whether it is being worn by the user.

When in its "curled state," or otherwise attached to a user's arm, the bracelet can take on the form of an uninterrupted screen. On-board sensors, like gyroscopes and accelerometers, would aid in orienting the screen's information toward the user.

Wearable Device Display
Illustration of device with display (402), kinetic energy gathering device (502),
wireless antennas (506), connector, (508) and battery (504).


While the slap bracelet is the main underpinning discussed, the filing notes that any number of other materials can be used, with mechanisms such as snaps or velcro as used as attachment points. This leaves room for interpretations on the design, including more traditional watch interfaces.

As far as usability is concerned, the invention points out that the accessory doesn't need to be limited displaying information from a portable device like an iPhone, but can also interact with the handset at a basic level:
With a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display.
Such interactive features are seen in basic form with existing "smart watches" like the Pebble, though Apple's patent extends the idea into more advanced iterations such as the viewing and control of digital maps.

Continuous Display
Illustration of continuous display in "curled state."


Apple's wearable display can be a truly universal fit, as an "end-detection" sensor provides a contingency for larger and smaller sized appendages. Located at one end of the device, the sensor can turn off the unused portion of the display that is covered when the bracelet overlaps for smaller users. In some embodiments, the touchscreen itself can be used as the end-detection sensor.

In addition, ambient light energy collectors, commonly referred to as solar panels, as well as kinetic energy gathering devices can be included onto the bracelet to boost battery life. An AMOLED display can further enhance the unit's efficiency, though Apple has yet to deploy a product that uses the technology.

Communications are facilitated through wireless protocols, though the proposed unit also contains wired connectors for syncing and recharging the internal battery.

States
Cross section views of bracelet.


Thursday's patent application is tangible evidence that Apple is working on a so-called "iWatch." Rumors regarding the purported device have been heating up as many industry watchers say wearable computing is the next logical step for mobile technology.

There are multiple existing patents in Apple's quiver if it decides to build the proposed device, including a manufacturing process for curved glass, solar cell multitouch panels and "shake to charge" kinetic energy technology.

The filing credits Fletcher R. Rothkopf, Derek W. Wright and Scott A. Myers as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    What date will Samsung put onto their prototype designs? 2008?
  • Reply 2 of 51


    It will be Junk

  • Reply 3 of 51
    oflifeoflife Posts: 120member
    @bro2ma Chances are, based on the prototype Samsung flexible display demos on YouTube that Apple will once again be using Samsung display technology, if not developed elsewhere. It takes companies like Apple to successfully introduce new technology/ideas, whether or not patented. Multi-touch, MagSafe, WiFi (PowerBooks where the first laptops with WiFi), TrackBall (PowerBook 100/140), Keyboard wrist pad (PowerBook) etc etc all come to mind.
  • Reply 4 of 51


    Well I have a huge wrist so I guess I'll get more pixels that most.

  • Reply 5 of 51
    Hmm so this could be the last invention that Steve Jobs wanted to create. Or did?
  • Reply 6 of 51
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member


    Why can an idea for a technology be patented ?!


     


    This sounds like patenting the anti-gravity suit, and when someone actually develops the technology for it claiming : yes, that's exactly what I meant....


     


    Samsung has shown for a couple of years actual technical implementation of flexible screen, this would only be a practical implementation of that technical invention.

  • Reply 7 of 51


     


    I just wish it would become more than a watch.


     


    http://successfulworkplace.com/2013/02/11/its-an-iphone-tim-but-not-as-we-know-it/


     


    I really want Apple to disrupt the mobile phone industry again and split out more of the phone functionality into this and leave the actual large screen form factor as just the mobile and social window to the interwebs. I think the phone form should shrink again.


     

  • Reply 8 of 51
    oflifeoflife Posts: 120member
    Incredibly, my company has been working on such a design concept for a few years off and on, and only in the last week discussed (in writing) a kinetic energy generation system and three days ago, a slap bracelet as one of several methods to attach the device to your wrist. Our designer even has a slap bracelet used as a promotional gift by a company who had their logo branded on it. He had had it for over a decade, so the slap bracelet concept is not new in general, just new for an electronic gadget.

    Anyway, cannot believe the co-incidence!

    Very painful to be an inventor, you think you have cracked it, only to find out someone else got to the patent office first. As they say, what a bummer. :(
  • Reply 9 of 51
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member



    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bro2ma View Post



    What date will Samsung put onto their prototype designs? 2008?


     


    Forget Samsung.  Bracelet phones are an old concept.  Using slap bracelet backing is an obvious variation, and predates Apple's 2011 application.  For example, see this concept from 2009 with flexible display:


     



     


    Quote:


    Originally Posted by Douglas Bailey View Post


    Well I have a huge wrist so I guess I'll get more pixels that most.



     


    Actually, yes!  That's a primary claim in the patent:  a method of detecting where the screen overlaps, and containing the display to the viewable area.  (Again, very obvious.)


     


    Of more interest, is the mention of a fabric cover.  There's everyone's answer to Apple not using plastic image  j/k

  • Reply 10 of 51
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post


     


    Forget Samsung.  Bracelet phones are an old concept.  Using slap bracelet backing is an obvious variation, and predates Apple's 2011 application.  For example, see this concept from 2009 with flexible display:


     


     



     


     


     


    Actually, yes!  That's a primary claim in the patent:  a method of detecting where the screen overlaps, and containing the display to the viewable area.  (Again, very obvious.)


     


    Of more interest, is the mention of a fabric cover.  There's everyone's answer to Apple not using plastic image  j/k



    The difference is.....while anyone can mock up a drawing with the idea. Look at the old black and white scifi movies..... It takes something altogether different to put the design and technology together and make it work......

  • Reply 11 of 51
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post


     


    Forget Samsung.  Bracelet phones are an old concept.  Using slap bracelet backing is an obvious variation, and predates Apple's 2011 application.  For example, see this concept from 2009 with flexible display:


     



     


     


    Actually, yes!  That's a primary claim in the patent:  a method of detecting where the screen overlaps, and containing the display to the viewable area.  (Again, very obvious.)


     


    Of more interest, is the mention of a fabric cover.  There's everyone's answer to Apple not using plastic image  j/k



    So this isn't a product that actually went to market....just a concept?


     


    i hope we don't get anything like this from Apple.  A slap on watch doesn't interest me in the least.

  • Reply 12 of 51
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    rogifan wrote: »
    So this isn't a product that actually went to market....just a concept?

    i hope we don't get anything like this from Apple.  A slap on watch doesn't interest me in the least.

    I'm personally glad that it's looking like this rather than like the old Nano or Pebble.

    This slap on concept has a lot more screen space and an overall cooler look.

    If it looks like this I'll be in line to buy one:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1655017763/cst-01-the-worlds-thinnest-watch
  • Reply 13 of 51
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by geekdad View Post


    The difference is.....while anyone can mock up a drawing with the idea. Look at the old black and white scifi movies..... It takes something altogether different to put the design and technology together and make it work......




     


    There is no difference.  This patent is not a detailed design for such a device.  It could even be based on a non-working mockup.  Not that it matters, because...


     


    Quote:


    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post


    So this isn't a product that actually went to market....just a concept?



     


    Prior art does not have to be marketed, nor even have to be operative, if it describes enough for anyone with ordinary skill to carry out the proposed invention.  The concept phone article does that in regards to using a slap bracelet as the substrate.


     


    Which is why this is NOT a patent for a slap bracelet device.  It can't be.  There's both prior art and anticipation involved.


     


    As I said, the primary claim is about making the display adjust to the visible portion, which would depend on the size of the appendage it's wrapped around.  


     


    To anyone, that would be an obvious thing to implement.  Heck, someone already commented that they'd see more with a bigger wrist, and they probably hadn't even read the patent!

  • Reply 14 of 51
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,976member
  • Reply 15 of 51
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,399member


    Well at least this explains why Apple pulled the last generation iPod Nano, when it was doing so well and taking on new life as a watch, replacing it with an arguably worse concept.

  • Reply 16 of 51
    stefstef Posts: 87member


    To misquote: It's not the watch, it's the wrist, stupid. Sensors on the wrist can deliver significant medical and exercise information. If an Apple iWrist can provide me with biometrical info, I might have to wear it. And it’s not hard to see ahead, in the next five to ten years, that this info link gaining critical health and even insurance services. Add in the currently available emergency alerts on it for disabled and old folks. Sure, include a localized Siri and the iPod Nano feature set. Apple doesn’t do watches. It does platforms. And Apple loves the challenge of small and simple gear. And it loves disruption. Nobody does them better. At $200 it will sell a billiard.


     



       


    •  

  • Reply 17 of 51
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    ... Thursday's patent application is tangible evidence that Apple is working on a so-called "iWatch." Rumors regarding the purported device have been heating up as many industry watchers say wearable computing is the next logical step for mobile technology. ...


     


    Actually it totally is NOT "tangible evidence" that Apple is working on a(n) ... iWatch."


     


    There is absolutely nothing about the patents at all that indicate it has anything to do with "watches" or time pieces at all.  AppleInsider, by following the herd of tech journalists in conceptualising this as an "iWatch" actually does a great dis-service to the concept, and to Apple itself.  


     


    Apple is not making a "watch."  Apple is making a breakthrough wearable computer accessory (or trying to at least).  


     


    For all the nimrods and feeble brained, narrow minded hacks to constantly refer to it as an ''iWatch" is both insulting to Apple as a company, and undermines the whole project by raising false expectations and by limiting discussion (and thought) on what this device could actually be used for.  


     


    Take a tip from Jony Ive.   Words actually mean something, especially when thinking about design.  


    You can bet that when the team first assembled at Apple headquarters to investigate this project, almost the first words spoken were "Okay, so first we have to stop thinking about it as a watch ..."

  • Reply 18 of 51
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,976member
    gazoobee wrote: »
    Actually it totally is NOT "tangible evidence" that Apple is working on a(n) ... iWatch."

    There is absolutely nothing about the patents at all that indicate it has anything to do with "watches" or time pieces at all.  AppleInsider, by following the herd of tech journalists in conceptualising this as an "iWatch" actually does a great dis-service to the concept, and to Apple itself.  

    Apple is not making a "watch."  Apple is making a breakthrough wearable computer accessory (or trying to at least).  

    For all the nimrods and feeble brained, narrow minded hacks to constantly refer to it as an ''iWatch" is both insulting to Apple as a company, and undermines the whole project by raising false expectations and by limiting discussion (and thought) on what this device could actually be used for.  

    Take a tip from Jony Ive.   Words actually mean something, especially when thinking about design.  
    You can bet that when the team first assembled at Apple headquarters to investigate this project, almost the first words spoken were "Okay, so first we have to stop thinking about it as a watch ..."

    Doesn't matter what they're actually making but what people think when they see the word. Watch is something synonymous with a device worn on one's wrist. For years wristwatches have done more than just tell time but they're still called that. iWatch sounds much better than iBracelet, and remember the iPhone is much more than a phone.
  • Reply 19 of 51

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post


    Actually, yes!  That's a primary claim in the patent:  a method of detecting where the screen overlaps, and containing the display to the viewable area.  (Again, very obvious.)



     


    Do you know of any company that has thought of a flexible display in a snap bracelet that automatically adjusts the display due to the overlap? It's only obvious once someone has actually come up with the idea. Apple innovates breakthrough products all the time and their simplicity in design always makes it "obvious" to everyone else on how to do it.

  • Reply 20 of 51
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,509member
    stef wrote: »

    <p style="border:0px;font-size:14px;line-height:22px;font-family:inherit;">To misquote: It's not the watch, it's the wrist, stupid. Sensors on the wrist can deliver significant medical and exercise information. If an Apple iWrist can provide me with biometrical info, I might have to wear it. And it’s not hard to see ahead, in the next five to ten years, that this info link gaining critical health and even insurance services. Add in the currently available emergency alerts on it for disabled and old folks. Sure, include a localized Siri and the iPod Nano feature set. Apple doesn’t do watches. It does platforms. And Apple loves the challenge of small and simple gear. And it loves disruption. Nobody does them better. At $200 it will sell a billiard.

    A good way to look at it, seems to me. Previous platforms:

    1. Desk
    2. Lap
    3. Pocket
    4.Clothing (clip-on shuffle/nano)
    5. Hand

    Future:

    6. Arm
    7. Head

    Ears have been wired in since the beginning. The farther off future with the skin, retinae and nervous system are science fiction, not my thing.
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