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The Apple Watch's Digital Crown Patent Comes to Light

30A - Patent Application


On June 18, 2015, the European Patent Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their invention related to the Apple Watch's Digital Crown. The patent reviews an input Friction Mechanism that provides the Digital Crown with its haptic feedback and more.  


Apple's Patent Background


Electronic devices - such as mobile devices, mobile phones, tablet computers, music and multi-media players, wearable device, gaming devices, and other handheld, wearable or portable devices - have one or inputs such as buttons, touch screens, switches, and rotary inputs that can perform various functions.


With some rotary inputs or rotary controls, the present inventors have recognized that there may not be a mechanical stop or limit to a user rotating a rotary input, which can be problematic to the user experience.


Accordingly, as recognized by the present inventors, what is needed are mechanisms for providing tactile feel or feedback to the user when using a rotary input.


Apple Invents the Digital Crown & Input Friction Mechanism


Apple's invention generally relates to inputs of electronic devices, and more particularly relates to rotary inputs used with electronic devices such as the Apple Watch and its Digital Crown.


According to one broad aspect of one embodiment is an apparatus for an electronic device that provides haptic feedback by controlling an application of friction to a rotary input control with a shaft.


In one example, such as the Apple Watch illustrated below, may include a spring bar member positioned adjacent to the shaft; and a movable tension member positioned to engage the spring bar; wherein as the tension member engages the spring bar, the spring bar engages the shaft and applies haptic feedback in the form of a frictional force to the shaft. In this manner, the apparatus can controllably apply haptic feedback in the form of a friction force of a desired amount to the rotary input control.


In one example, the movable tension member is positioned about a midpoint along a length of the spring bar member, and the spring bar member has a first end and a second end, wherein both first and second ends are fixed. The spring bar member may be elongated with a generally flat profile, and may be made of various materials such as metal.


In one example, the apparatus may include a motor coupled with the movable tension member, wherein the motor controllably moves the movable tension member towards or away from the spring bar member. The motor may be a stepper motor.


Examples of electronic devices utilizing rotary control inputs with controllable friction mechanisms may include but are not limited to devices such as mouse input devices or a wearable communication device as shown in Apple's patent FIG. 8 below.


Apple notes in general that such a digital crown or rotary control input could apply to future devices including mobile devices, mobile phones, tablet computers, music and multi-media players, gaming devices, wearable health assistant devices, and other handheld, wearable or portable devices.



Apple's patent Figures 1A and 1B shown on the wearable device/Apple Watch, may include a rotary input or rotary control #11 having a shaft or stem #12 with one or more dials, wheels or crowns #14 coupled with shaft 12.


Apple's patent Figures 4A-4D, the movable tension member #20 can be selectively and controllably moved upwardly so as to temporarily move, deform, bend or deflect the spring bar #18 in an upward direction. As the spring bar moves upwardly, a portion of the spring bar comes in     contact with shaft #12 of the rotary control input and applies a greater amount of frictional force or braking force against the shaft. The variable movement of the tension member against the spring bar creates a variable amount of friction force against the shaft. The frictional or braking force against the shaft of the rotary control input can be felt by the user as a haptic effect when they rotate or attempts to rotate the crown.


Apple's patent Figure 2 shown below illustrates an example of a controllable friction mechanism for a rotary control input


3AF - Apple rotary FRICTION dial patent

Apple's patent Figure 5 shown below illustrates an example of a block diagram of an electronic device having a rotary control input #11 with a controllable friction mechanism #16 coupled thereto.


  4AF 55


A Wearable Health Assistant


Apple notes that in one example, the electronic device may be configured in the form of a wearable health assistant that provides health-related information (whether real-time or not) to the user, authorized third parties, and/or an associated monitoring device.


The device may be configured to provide health-related information or data such as but not limited to heart rate data, blood pressure data, temperature data, oxygen level data, caloric data, diet/nutrition information, medical reminders, health-related tips or information, or other health-related data.


The associated monitoring device may also be, for example, a wearable device, a tablet computing device, phone, personal digital assistant, computer, and so on.


Patent Credits


Apple credits Interaction Design Engineer Camille Moussette (from Montreal). Another engineer who worked on the digital crown was referred to as the "Robotics Whiz" back in 2013. Everyone wanted to know what John Morrell was up to at Apple. Well, today that's answered in-part. He was working on the Apple Watch Digital Crown. The third engineer who worked on this invention was Patrick Kessler who has since moved on to Tyto Life LLC. Patently Apple discovered today's published invention in Europe. Apple's original international patent filing was made in Q4 2013 and made public today.


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