Next-gen Apple Watch might thin down by moving haptic motor to wristband

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited December 2016
Apple is investigating the possibility of transferring Apple Watch's haptic feedback mechanism from the device chassis to its wrist strap, a design that would allow for a much thinner product, according to a patent application discovered Thursday.




As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's patent application for a "Band attachment mechanism with haptic response" outlines the underpinnings of a wearable device with haptic feedback structures and circuitry embedded in a securing band or strap.

Capable of alerting its wearer to incoming alerts and other notifications, the proposed band promises to deliver an identical experience to Apple Watch's internal Taptic Engine minus the bulk. Applied to Apple's wearable, the proposed design would reduce device thickness by offloading the relatively large linear actuator assembly to a location outside of the casing, adjacent to the bottom or side of a user's wrist.

According to the document, the proposed band incorporates hardware -- including but not limited to electromagnetic technology, piezoelectric technology, and/or electroreactive polymers -- that allows the band to move laterally or side-to-side with respect to the host device. Other embodiments call for the band to move up and down or rotate around an axis.

Current Apple Watch iterations are relegated to the back-and-forth motion of a linear actuator. Called the Taptic Engine, Apple's in-house haptic solution is able simulate a multitude of tactile signals, including taps and shakes, thanks to special software-driven damping technology.


Source: USPTO


Movement might further vary depending on the integrated haptic subsystem. For example, haptic components can produce a range of sensations, from pressure to motion to vibratory stimulation. Alternatively, feedback generators can be lumped into groups of two or more for an enhanced experience.

As detailed, haptic devices can be embedded in existing band structures, for example a strap buckle. Another embodiment allows for the device to sit within watchband spring bars. This latter deployment would fit nicely with Apple Watch's magnetic band attachment interface, which is rather large compared to traditional watch strap mechanisms.

While not explicitly described in today's filing, the haptic band would likely attach to, and subsequently receive instructions from, its host watch through a hardwired connection. Perhaps not coincidentally, Apple Watch already sports a non user-serviceable diagnostics port capable of transferring both data and power to the wearable.




It is unclear if Apple plans to incorporate the haptic band design in an upcoming version of Apple Watch, but such technology would serve well the company's quest for ever-thinner products.

In addition to space savings, an external vibratory motor, or multiple motors, might provide pronounced alerts that are more easily detected by wearers. Because smartwatches are worn on a part of the body that is in constant motion, users sometimes miss haptic alerts. Apple attempted to address this issue with a so-called "prominent haptic" setting that sends an extra tap, a sort of pre-announcement announcement, to mixed results.




Perhaps most interesting about today's application is the June 2016 filing date. Considering Apple Watch was unveiled in 2014 and refined through one upgrade cycle, the haptic band idea might still be on the table for a next-generation release.

Apple's haptic Apple Watch band patent application credits Harry W. Smith IV, Patrick Kessler, Camille Moussette and John B. Morrell as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    This on the other hand would make the bands much more expensive and - possibly - would narrow the diversity of bands down. I'm not sure this is a wise move. Personally, I don't think that the watch is thick. It is normal. Not thin, but normal.... Plus, I rather have the watch "thick" as it is now than having a thick(er) watch band!
    edited December 2016 boredumbcalinetmagepeterhart1983
  • Reply 2 of 39
    If moving functionality to the band, consider placing an NFC chip in the band so we can use Apple Pay with the Watch screen facing upward (visible).
    boredumbmike1ppartekim
  • Reply 3 of 39
    Apple is too obsessed with making their devices thinner and lighter.  They are overly focused on improving hardware instead of focusing on software and the user experience they were once known for.  Fantastic hardware is useless if the software experience doesn't match up to it.
    Rayz2016williamlondondamonfnetmagepscooter6380s_Apple_Guy1983
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    jay-t said:
    This on the other hand would make the bands much more expensive and - possibly - would narrow the diversity of bands down. I'm not sure this is a wise move. Personally, I don't think that the watch is thick. It is normal. Not thin, but normal.... Plus, I rather have the watch "thick" as it is now than having a thick(er) watch band!
    And all of this is precisely why it won't happen.

    I wonder if anyone's ever worked out what percentage of Apple patent applications ever turn up in a shipping products. From what I can tell, the only ones that show up are the ones that are granted a patent a year or so after the product has started shipping.
    netmage1983
  • Reply 5 of 39
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member
    Just remove the battery. Problem solved.
    fluffhead1983
  • Reply 6 of 39
    egreene59 said:
    Apple is too obsessed with making their devices thinner and lighter.  They are overly focused on improving hardware instead of focusing on software and the user experience they were once known for.  Fantastic hardware is useless if the software experience doesn't match up to it.
    Thinner and lighter is a requirement to overcome the heat barrier. A thick computer would retain much more heat. The only thing Apple is obsessed with is the heat, not thinness or lightness. The unusual thickness of the Watch is a proof of this. If Apple were not interested in improved user experience, they would omit the vibration and would make the Watch thinner. Our gain is the improved user experience at the expense of making the Watch thicker.
    williamlondoncaliMetriacanthosauruspscooter631983
  • Reply 7 of 39
    egreene59 said:
    Apple is ... overly focused on improving hardware instead of focusing on software and the user experience they were once known for.
    watchOS 3.0 was a significant upgrade of the Watch software and user experience.  Most reviews praised it as a major improvement.
    tycho24caliMetriacanthosaurusStrangeDaysnetmagebrucemc1983watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 39
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member
    egreene59 said:
    Apple is too obsessed with making their devices thinner and lighter.  They are overly focused on improving hardware instead of focusing on software and the user experience they were once known for.  Fantastic hardware is useless if the software experience doesn't match up to it.
    Thinner and lighter is a requirement to overcome the heat barrier. A thick computer would retain much more heat. The only thing Apple is obsessed with is the heat, not thinness or lightness. The unusual thickness of the Watch is a proof of this. If Apple were not interested in improved user experience, they would omit the vibration and would make the Watch thinner. Our gain is the improved user experience at the expense of making the Watch thicker.

    Clearly, physics isn't your strength. Here's a math question for you: What takes longer to bring to a boil, if you have a 2000W heatcoil: 1 gallon of water or 10 gallons of water?
  • Reply 9 of 39
    egreene59 said:
    Apple is too obsessed with making their devices thinner and lighter.  They are overly focused on improving hardware instead of focusing on software and the user experience they were once known for.  Fantastic hardware is useless if the software experience doesn't match up to it.
    Thinner and lighter is a requirement to overcome the heat barrier. A thick computer would retain much more heat. The only thing Apple is obsessed with is the heat, not thinness or lightness. The unusual thickness of the Watch is a proof of this. If Apple were not interested in improved user experience, they would omit the vibration and would make the Watch thinner. Our gain is the improved user experience at the expense of making the Watch thicker.

    If this were the case we'd have thick laptops with big heat sinks and giant fans. Clearly its a balance between portability, sexiness and technical requirements.
  • Reply 10 of 39
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    Sounds like bs that won't happen.
    Metriacanthosaurus1983
  • Reply 11 of 39
    (Warning! Yuck Alert!!!) The one physical change Apple should make -- and it is a non-trivial one -- is regarding the placement of the microphone. About once a month, Siri just would go deaf. Repeated calls to Apple Support were of no help. But I serendipitously figured out what's going on: Since the mic is against the skin, it tends to clog up. I clean it out, and it works fine (for another month). 

    (Before you get grossed out, and come up with witty rejoinders, etc., please recognize that natural exfoliation of dead skin cells is a natural part of the dust in homes, cars, and such. Just a part of life.) 
    slprescottpscooter631983
  • Reply 12 of 39
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,329member
    It's an application, people. Don't be so narrow minded. Why would you want them to stop thinking outside the box. Maybe the tech doesn't end up in a watch band, but some other wearable. Who knows?
    StrangeDaystycho241983
  • Reply 13 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,584member
    I'm not so sure I like that idea. Since I bought my Series 2 black SS model with bracelet, as soon as it was available, I've bought two Apple bands, and four third party bands. If Apple does this, what going to happen with the idea of interchanagble bands?

    will we need to buy an authorized band to get haptic feedback? This doesn't seem like a great idea.
    damonfnetmagepscooter631983
  • Reply 14 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,584member
    egreene59 said:
    Apple is too obsessed with making their devices thinner and lighter.  They are overly focused on improving hardware instead of focusing on software and the user experience they were once known for.  Fantastic hardware is useless if the software experience doesn't match up to it.
    The watch software has been improved dramatically already. The hardware has too. You're wrong, this is a very new category, and needs serious improvement, in both hardware and software. Maybe in several generations that won't be true, but it is now.
    StrangeDaysnetmage
  • Reply 15 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,584member

    tycho24 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    jay-t said:
    This on the other hand would make the bands much more expensive and - possibly - would narrow the diversity of bands down. I'm not sure this is a wise move. Personally, I don't think that the watch is thick. It is normal. Not thin, but normal.... Plus, I rather have the watch "thick" as it is now than having a thick(er) watch band!
    And all of this is precisely why it won't happen.

    I wonder if anyone's ever worked out what percentage of Apple patent applications ever turn up in a shipping products. From what I can tell, the only ones that show up are the ones that are granted a patent a year or so after the product has started shipping.
    What you mean is: AI's very very very ridiculously stupid guess of how this might be used, is not correct.
    Duh.
    How anyone w/ an iq trivially above retarded could look at this patent application & think: "aha, they must be thinking about removing the Taptic Engine!" is entirely beyond me.
    They sell bands of over a half dozen materials, ranging in price from $50 to $500, & Apple Watch is popular in part because of a rich 3rd party band accessory market.
    I cannot even begin to fathom the enormity & expense of a project to seamlessly integrate a Taptic Engine into these all, lol.
    It is really cool that they're clearly exploring designing OPTIONS in bands for people with different use cases... or possibly even, this is for a screenless "Fitbit" type band wearable they're exploring.
    A while ago Apple also submitted a patent for a band that could inflate/deflate slightly, presumably to allow for accurate blood pressure readings.
    I'm wildly surprised that one of these moron AI editors didn't run the article: "Apple to integrate air powered size adjusting feature into all bands, including link bracelet... we know it seems impossible; but it's the only conclusion we can come up with, by superficially glancing at new patent!".

    Don't be so degenerative. You can criticize all you want to, but keep your name calling to yourself. I don't want to have to delete your posts, and give you demerits.
    slprescottpscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,584member

    (Warning! Yuck Alert!!!) The one physical change Apple should make -- and it is a non-trivial one -- is regarding the placement of the microphone. About once a month, Siri just would go deaf. Repeated calls to Apple Support were of no help. But I serendipitously figured out what's going on: Since the mic is against the skin, it tends to clog up. I clean it out, and it works fine (for another month). 

    (Before you get grossed out, and come up with witty rejoinders, etc., please recognize that natural exfoliation of dead skin cells is a natural part of the dust in homes, cars, and such. Just a part of life.) 
    Heh! Anan, I agree with you, but washing once in a while also helps. o:)
    pscooter63
  • Reply 17 of 39
    IT's a great idea ... if it means they can replace it was a battery large enough to support a cellular radio
    larrya
  • Reply 18 of 39
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,681member
    tycho24 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    jay-t said:
    This on the other hand would make the bands much more expensive and - possibly - would narrow the diversity of bands down. I'm not sure this is a wise move. Personally, I don't think that the watch is thick. It is normal. Not thin, but normal.... Plus, I rather have the watch "thick" as it is now than having a thick(er) watch band!
    And all of this is precisely why it won't happen.

    I wonder if anyone's ever worked out what percentage of Apple patent applications ever turn up in a shipping products. From what I can tell, the only ones that show up are the ones that are granted a patent a year or so after the product has started shipping.
    What you mean is: AI's very very very ridiculously stupid guess of how this might be used, is not correct.
    Duh.
    How anyone w/ an iq trivially above retarded could look at this patent application & think: "aha, they must be thinking about removing the Taptic Engine!" is entirely beyond me.
    They sell bands of over a half dozen materials, ranging in price from $50 to $500, & Apple Watch is popular in part because of a rich 3rd party band accessory market.
    I cannot even begin to fathom the enormity & expense of a project to seamlessly integrate a Taptic Engine into these all, lol.
    It is really cool that they're clearly exploring designing OPTIONS in bands for people with different use cases... or possibly even, this is for a screenless "Fitbit" type band wearable they're exploring.
    A while ago Apple also submitted a patent for a band that could inflate/deflate slightly, presumably to allow for accurate blood pressure readings.
    I'm wildly surprised that one of these moron AI editors didn't run the article: "Apple to integrate air powered size adjusting feature into all bands, including link bracelet... we know it seems impossible; but it's the only conclusion we can come up with, by superficially glancing at new patent!".


    Yeah, I agree that some people make more of it than what it really is.

    Apple is NOT going to move the Taptic Engine out of the watch. That's just stupid to think they would. What these patents most likely refer to are specialized bands designed for specific purposes. Apple has made it easy to swap out bands to the point that it created another 3rd party industry. The next logical step is to come out with "smart" or "active" bands that can add functionality and features to the watch for specific purposes. Users would simply swap out their regular band when needed.
    mike1ty24hours
  • Reply 19 of 39
    (Warning! Yuck Alert!!!) The one physical change Apple should make -- and it is a non-trivial one -- is regarding the placement of the microphone. About once a month, Siri just would go deaf. Repeated calls to Apple Support were of no help. But I serendipitously figured out what's going on: Since the mic is against the skin, it tends to clog up. I clean it out, and it works fine (for another month). 

    (Before you get grossed out, and come up with witty rejoinders, etc., please recognize that natural exfoliation of dead skin cells is a natural part of the dust in homes, cars, and such. Just a part of life.) 
    I haven't had that problem, but I do find it odd that the mic & speaker face inward toward the elbow when wearing long-sleeves, rather than pointing outward toward your hand and the sleeve's opening.
  • Reply 20 of 39
    I haven't got an apple watch as I wear a classic/yeolde/real/onewithhands watch but if anything was to move to the underside of the wrist, I'd imagine the HR sensor would be better suited in that location no?
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