Apple Watch may have a flat Digital Crown that recognizes gestures

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2020
One new Apple patent details how a device like flat Digital Crown could be made to include an optical sensor to register gestures, incorporating mechanisms and sensors to guarantee a proper watch band fit.

The familiar Digital Crown could be replaced by a flat touch sensor.
The familiar Digital Crown could be replaced by a flat touch sensor.


Apple is continuing to develop ways of utilizing the Apple Watch's Digital Crown to add new features and accept new input from users. In its latest patent, the Crown could feature an optical sensor to register and respond to touch.

"Portable electronic devices, such as watches, have become increasingly popular," says Apple in "Watch with Optical Sensor for User Input", US Patent No. 20200033815," and the features and functionality provided by portable electronic devices continue to expand to meet the needs and expectations of many consumers."

"Many devices include input components, such as crowns, that receive and detect tactile input from a user during operation," it continues. "Such input components may be prominently featured on the device for ready access by a user."

It's possible that future Digital Crowns will feature this sensor specifically so that they no longer have to rotate physically. By being a flat touch panel, they could also free up internal space for other components.

Detail from the patent showing a flattened Digital Crown
Detail from the patent showing a flattened Digital Crown


"[User] input components, such as crowns, can occupy space on a watch that could otherwise be occupied by other components of the watch," says Apple. "Some user input components include moving parts, which are susceptible to wear. User input components can also be susceptible to damage resulting from impact during normal use or when the watch is inadvertently dropped."

"[A touch Digital Crown] can also include one or more sensors, such as biosensors. The one or more sensors can be configured to sense substantially any type of characteristic such as, but not limited to, images, pressure, light, touch, force, temperature, position, motion, and so on," continues Apple.

"For example, the sensor(s) can be a photodetector, a temperature sensor, a light or optical sensor, an atmospheric pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, a magnet, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and so on," says the patent. "In other examples, the watch 10 can include one or more health sensors."

The three inventors listed are Tyler S. Bushnell, who was recently also named on "Capacitive gap sensor ring for an electronic watch," a patent about joystick-like Digital Crowns, Sameer Pandya, and Steven P Cardinali.

Pandya, is also listed on a separate new patent regarding wrist bands for the Apple Watch, alongside Yiwen Wu, Erik G. de Jong, and Colin M. Ely.

"Consistently-tight Watch Band," US Patent No 20200029660, is specifically about the issue of how Apple Watch fits on a wrist.

"Watch bands may become tight around a user's wrist as the user moves their wrist," it says. "Such tightening can be uncomfortable."

Detail from the patent regarding Watch bands that adjust their fit automatically
Detail from the patent regarding Watch bands that adjust their fit automatically


The patent's solution is to have bands that adjust themselves.

"[For example] watch bands that maintain a substantially constant tension despite changes in their lengths while worn by a user," it says. "Such changes in length may occur automatically to accommodate changes in the size and circumference of a user's wrist as they move their wrist normally (e.g., moving it from straight, with a smaller circumference, to bent, with a larger circumference)."

"By maintaining a constant tension," it continues, "the watch bands may also maintain a constant force on the user's wrist, and they may cause a watch body attached to the bands to also maintain a constant force on the user's wrist. This can increase a user's comfort, since the watch will not get tighter or constrict their wrist as they straighten and bend their wrist."

Apple notes that a good fit of a band is useful not only from a comfort point of view.

"It can also help optimize operation of any sensors in the watch band or watch body that benefit from being held against the user's wrist with a constant force, such as some physiological sensors (e.g., some heart rate sensors)," it concludes.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13


    Apple notes that a good fit of a band is useful not only from a comfort point of view.

    "It can also help optimize operation of any sensors in the watch band or watch body that benefit from being held against the user's wrist with a constant force, such as some physiological sensors (e.g., some heart rate sensors)," it concludes.
    Now THAT is a biggee!
    It can/will open a lot of doors once Apple integrates that watch and its band to enhance and add new functions to the watch beyond those which the watch is capable of on its own.
    repressthis
  • Reply 2 of 13
    roakeroake Posts: 741member
    While I like the idea of the watch-band sensors (although goodbye cheap but high-quality off-brand watch bands), I feel that a flat digital crown would seem more cheap and gimmicky (digital spot?).

    But who knows?  Apple pulls off some nice surprises...
    razorpitrepressthisStrangeDays
  • Reply 3 of 13
    roakeroake Posts: 741member

    "For example, the sensor(s) can be a photodetector, a temperature sensor, a light or optical sensor, an atmospheric pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, a magnet, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and so on," says the patent. "In other examples, the watch 10 can include one or more health sensors."


    Wait... what?
    cy_starkmanrepressthis
  • Reply 4 of 13
    I’m all the for the crown being made flat. I accidentally activate Siri quite often. Or at the very least, let us disable Siri activation with the button push.  
    razorpit
  • Reply 5 of 13
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    roake said:

    "For example, the sensor(s) can be a photodetector, a temperature sensor, a light or optical sensor, an atmospheric pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, a magnet, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and so on," says the patent. "In other examples, the watch 10 can include one or more health sensors."


    Wait... what?
    I'm guessing another figure that wasn't shown here.

    These all sound like good ideas. The only problem is if they're being patented now we probably won't see them in production for another two generations.
    repressthis
  • Reply 6 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,757member
    supadav03 said:
    I’m all the for the crown being made flat. I accidentally activate Siri quite often. Or at the very least, let us disable Siri activation with the button push.  

    Go to the Watch App, Siri, and turn "Press Digital Crown" to 'off'.
    StrangeDayseightzero
  • Reply 7 of 13
    razorpit said:
    roake said:

    "For example, the sensor(s) can be a photodetector, a temperature sensor, a light or optical sensor, an atmospheric pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, a magnet, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and so on," says the patent. "In other examples, the watch 10 can include one or more health sensors."


    Wait... what?
    I'm guessing another figure that wasn't shown here.

    These all sound like good ideas. The only problem is if they're being patented now we probably won't see them in production for another two generations.
    Actually it's referring to the figure that is included in this article.  "10" just points to the watch itself.
  • Reply 8 of 13
    I would love the constantly tight band and miss the rotating crown. 
    edited January 2020
  • Reply 9 of 13
    In light of the success of both Apple Watch and AirPod Pro products, I’m very interested to see what direction Apple takes these increasingly tiny computing platforms to on-body sensors. Imagine sensors applied to the surface of the teeth which would measure caloric intake or test for toxic substances, for example.
    edited January 2020
  • Reply 10 of 13
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,010member
    I like the digital crown am not thrilled with the idea of using gestures over a tiny surface area. And I frequently find myself redoing a gesture such as swiping to change a watch face or pause/stop a workout. The smaller the surface area, the less likely I'll like it. I understand Apple's desire to reduce the space and number of parts, but I don't like it.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 11 of 13
    What’s the point of a Digital Crown ? It’s so small in the drawing that it would be difficult to find and navigate. If there is to be another control surface on the watch shouldn’t it take up the entire right side of the watch and take over the function of the control button as well ? A teeny tiny track pad.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,477member
    fnico said:
    What’s the point of a Digital Crown ? It’s so small in the drawing that it would be difficult to find and navigate. If there is to be another control surface on the watch shouldn’t it take up the entire right side of the watch and take over the function of the control button as well ? A teeny tiny track pad.
    Endless scrolling, for one.
  • Reply 13 of 13
    macgui said:
    I like the digital crown am not thrilled with the idea of using gestures over a tiny surface area. And I frequently find myself redoing a gesture such as swiping to change a watch face or pause/stop a workout. The smaller the surface area, the less likely I'll like it. I understand Apple's desire to reduce the space and number of parts, but I don't like it.

    Actually, that's one of the reasons why many/most runners prefer Garmin over the Apple Watch -- it uses buttons instead of a touch screen and is easier to control.
    (That's not suggest that I think the Garmin is over all superior, but simply to point out that each solution has its own pluses and minuses and often the best answer lies somewhere in the middle.)
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