Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals wearable sensors and, more specifically, to a network of wearable sensors for recognizing and tracking movements and exercises. Over the years Apple has filed many sport activity related patents that could be reviewed in our archives here. One of Apple's more elaborate sports related patents was acquired. With Apple Watch, Apple had built new testing facilities geared for testing sensors related to workouts and health statistics in general. Yesterday Apple introduced Apple Watch series 2 and introduced new features and a partnership with Nike once again with new "Apple Watch Nike+" system. Today's invention is one that is home grown and detailed in the extreme. Instead of limiting athletic sensors to running shoes for joggers, the new sensor system will expand and support sensors that could be worn by athletes of all levels to measure important workout data related to floor exercises, weight training, aquatics and more.
Apple's Patent Background
Sensors have been incorporated into a variety of user devices to provide enhanced functionality and new opportunities for user interaction. Motion sensors, light sensors, position sensors, magnetometers, and a variety of other sensors have been incorporated into mobile phones (e.g., smartphones), tablet computers, step counters, and other computing devices, allowing software developers to create engaging software applications ("apps") for entertainment, productivity, health, and the like. Some devices and apps have been developed to track walking, running, and other distance activities. Users can monitor such cardio training and keep track of their progress over time.
Such devices and apps, however, are limited in the types of exercise they can track. For example, step counters and distance measuring devices and apps are unable to recognize or track strength training exercises. People engaging in strength training (e.g., weight lifting and the like) may manually record workout logs in physical books or digital spreadsheets. Such tedious manual recording, however, can be unreliable, and very few people go to the effort of keeping detailed logs despite the potential benefits for progress tracking and workout optimization over time. Moreover, people engage in many exercises beyond cardio training or strength training, such as team sports, that can be significant elements of a fitness plan but are similarly tedious to record. Devices and apps are likewise unable to automatically recognize and track such physical activities, limiting their ability to provide a complete picture of user fitness.
A New Wearable Sensor Network System
Apple's patent covers a new network of wearable sensors that can include a first sensor configured to be worn or carried on a first part of a body and a second sensor configured to be worn or carried on a second part of the body. The network can include, or can communicate with, a mobile device that can receive sensor information from both the first and second sensors.
The combined sensor information can indicate a stance of a user wearing or carrying the first and second sensors. Movement can also be sensed by the first and second sensors, and the resulting combined sensor information can be used to determine that a user is performing a particular physical activity, exercise, or the like.
Recognized physical activities or exercises can be tracked and recorded throughout a workout session. Additional sensors can also be used, including sensors in a mobile device or additional sensors worn on other parts of the body.
In some examples, certain sensors can be used to recognize exercise equipment to provide additional tracking data. Sensors can also include mechanisms to provide user feedback, and apps can likewise provide feedback and progress information to users in a variety of ways to enhance utility and improve the user's experience.
A network of sensors can be used to track the stance, position, movements, exercises, and the like of a user. One or more sensor devices can be configured for wearing, attaching, or carrying on different parts of a user's body. Sensor information gathered by the sensors can be communicated to a user device, such as a smartphone, tablet computer, central sensor device, or the like.
The sensor device (#108 of FIG 2 shown far below) can also include gyroscope that can be used to measure orientation, rotation, and the like. The gyroscope can be included instead of or in addition to an accelerometer. In some examples, the combination of accelerometer and gyroscope can allow for robust direction and motion sensing, allowing for accurate recognition of movement of the sensor device within a three-dimensional space (e.g., using three-dimensional coordinates, tracking displacement through three-dimensional space, etc.). Data from the gyroscope can be transmitted to a user device via Bluetooth transmitter (or another communication mechanism, such as radio frequency transceiver.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted below illustrates exemplary sensor devices configured for and placed on various parts of a body.
The following six patent graphics can be enlarged by simply clicking on them. Apple's patent FIG. 4A below illustrates the palm side of an exemplary glove with incorporated sensors; FIG. 4B illustrates the back side of an exemplary glove with incorporated sensors.
Apple's patent FIG. 5A below illustrates an exemplary wristwatch with a display that can be dimmed or disabled based on sensor information from incorporated sensors; FIG. 5B illustrates an exemplary wristwatch with a display that can be brightened or enabled based on sensor information from incorporated sensors.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A below illustrates an exemplary wrist sensor with haptic feedback at a first extreme of an exercise motion; FIG. 6B illustrates an exemplary wrist sensor with haptic feedback at a second extreme of an exercise motion.
Apple's patent FIG. 7A below illustrates an exemplary ankle sensor with haptic feedback at a first position in an exercise motion; FIG. 7B illustrates an exemplary ankle sensor with haptic feedback at a second position in an exercise motion.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 below illustrates exemplary wrist and ankle sensors tracking body positioning of a diver during a front flip dive; Patent FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary sensor device that a user can wear or carry.
Apple's patent FIG. 8B below illustrates a weight machine with exemplary machine and control tags that can communication with a sensor device.
Apple's patent FIG. 10 above illustrates an exemplary muscle heat map indicating muscles exercised during different workouts.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 above illustrates an exemplary system with a sensor network having multiple sensor devices that can be worn or carried on different parts of the body.
More specifically, Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates exemplary system #100 with sensor network #110 having user device #102 and multiple sensor devices #108.
Apple notes that a user device could be carried in a pocket, clipped to a waistband, put into a pouch and could be an Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, iPod. However, Apple notes that in some examples, a user can wear particular sensor devices during a physical activity without carrying or wearing a user device such as an iPhone.
Apple further notes that sensor devices can include any of a variety of sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, humidity sensors, temperatures sensors, pressure sensors, or the like. Sensor devices can also include any of a variety of transmitters, such as Bluetooth antennas, radio frequency (RF) transceivers, Wi-Fi antennas, cellular antennas, or the like for communicating to or with a user device #102 or with each other. Sensor devices #108 can also include a battery to power the sensors and transmitters.
Additionally, sensor devices can be configured to be carried, worn, or attached to various parts of a user's body. For example, a first sensor device can be configured to be worn on a user's wrist (e.g., as a bracelet, wristwatch, wristband, gloves, etc.). A second sensor device can be configured to be clipped to or inserted in a user's shoe or worn on a user's ankle (e.g., as an ankle bracelet). Still other sensor devices can be configured to be carried in a shirt pocket, pant pocket, skirt pocket, or pouch; clipped to a shirt sleeve, waistband, or shoelace; worn in an armband, gloves, or headphones; or carried, worn, or attached in any of a variety of other positions around a user's body.
In some examples, sensor devices can be built for durability, robustness, and the like for safe operation in a variety of environments (e.g., without damaging sensors, transmitters, or other components). For example, sensor devices 108 can be configured for safe operation in any environment, including cold, hot, wet, dry, high altitude, noisy (both audible noise and potentially interfering signal noise), etc. A user device can also include sensors, can be built for robustness, and can similarly be configured to be carried, worn, or attached to various parts of a user's body (e.g., carried in a pocket, attached in an armband, worn as necklace, etc.).
The sensor devices can gather sensor data and communicate the data to the user device. For example, sensor devices can gather sensor data related to position, movement, temperature, humidity, pressure, or the like and transmit the data to user device.
In some examples, one sensor device can transmit data to another sensor device such as transmitting a heartbeat signal or ping signal to another sensor device which can be used to determine relative position, distance, and other information (e.g., as in RF time of flight ranging).
In still other examples, the user device and sensor devices can transmit information to and receive information from any other device within the sensor network #110, enabling both the transfer of sensed data as well as various measurements based on signals being sent and received (e.g., as in echo location, RF time of flight ranging, various triangulation schemes, or the like).
Apple patent application 20160256082 was filed in Q2 2016. While the patent application isn't a continuation patent, it does refer to related patents dating between 2013 and 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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