When Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs introduced the revolutionary iPhone back in 2007, he proudly announced that it was protected by over 200 patents. The thing was that there was never a single knockout patent filing that covered the iPhone in its totality at one point in time. It was painfully drawn out of several years, piece by piece. Flashing forward to last February, Apple revealed a stunning wristband computer concept that could double as a next generation smartwatch. That patent application provided us with a grand overview of this next generation device. Today, Apple provides us with one of the first installments that might be found in their future device. Today's patent application details a next generation pedometer step detection system for a wrist related device.
Apple's Patent Background
A pedometer can be used to count steps and determine distance traveled by a user of the pedometer. Pedometers can be mechanical or digital. Digital pedometers can use built in motion sensor (e.g., accelerometers) to detect movement of the digital pedometer. When the digital pedometer is worn by a user, the signals received from the motion sensor can be analyzed to determine when a user takes a step. The algorithms for analyzing the signals can vary based on where on the user's body the pedometer is attached
Apple's Wrist Pedometer Step Detection
Apple's invention generally relates to pedometer step detection for a wrist related device. In some implementations, optimizations for detecting steps when a pedometer is worn at a user's wrist are described. In some implementations, a threshold crossing step detection method can be enhanced for wrist locations by counting the number of positive peaks between comparison threshold crossings, adjusting a minimum peak-to-peak threshold for qualifying threshold crossings, and inferring a second step based on the amount of time between threshold crossings. In some implementations, the pedometer can automatically determine that the pedometer is being worn on a user's wrist.
Particular implementations provide at least the following advantages: Users can receive accurate step counts when the pedometer is worn at the wrist. Distance estimation can be improved based on more accurate step counts.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted below is a graph representing the forces of gravity detected by a pedometer when walking or running when the pedometer is worn on the trunk of the user's body; FIG. 2 is an illustration of a person using a wrist pedometer for step detection; FIG. 3 is a graph of motion sensor data generated when the pedometer is worn at the user's wrist; and FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a pedometer configured to detect steps when worn at a user's wrist.
Apple states that in some implementations, the wrist optimizations described in the invention are only utilized when the pedometer determines that it is being worn on a user's wrist. In some implementations, the user can specify a wrist location by providing input to or selecting one or more options through a user interface of the pedometer. In some implementations, the pedometer can be configured to automatically detect that the pedometer is being worn on the user's wrist.
Apple provides us with great detail as to why a pedometer worn on the wrist can provide users with far more accurate counts of steps and distance than when you have your pedometer or iPod/iPhone with a pedometer in your pocket or worn on your waist.
Apple's invention is broken down into several distinct chapters including: a detailed overview; Determining Steps--Positive Peak Counting; Peak-to-Peak Threshold Adjustment; Inferring Step Based on Time; Automatic Wrist Classification; Example Process; and an Example System Architecture. If you're a real sports fan wanting to know every detail about Apple's invention, then check out Apple's patent application 20140074431. Apple credits Yash Modi as the sole inventor.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is flow diagram of an example pedometer step detection process when the pedometer is worn at the wrist.
When Tim Cook was interviewed at the D11 conference last year by Walt Mossberg he touched briefly on wearables. One thing that Cook stated was that "… you first have to convince people that it's so incredible that they want to wear it." Well, Today's invention isn't that wow-factor component for Apple's computer band device that will convince anyone they'll have to own Apple's next gen device.
However, today's revelation does in fact mark the beginning of what Apple is working on for this new device, and on that point it's a great first step with many, many to follow.
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