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Apple Patent Reveals Future Apple Watch with New Three-Dimensional Digital Crown Input



Yesterday the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to advancing Apple Watch with a new Digital Crown that could provide three-dimensional input as noted in our cover graphic.


Apple's patent filing notes that their invention relates to sensor arrangements for enabling inputs for manipulating a user interface on a wearable electronic device (Apple Watch) using a mechanical rotary input (e.g., a crown).


In some examples, the user interface can be scrolled or scaled in response to a rotation of the crown. The direction of the scrolling or scaling and the amount of scrolling or scaling can depend on the direction and amount of rotation of the crown, respectively.


In some examples, the amount of scrolling or scaling can be proportional to the change in rotation angle of the crown. In other examples, a velocity of scrolling or a velocity of scaling can depend on a velocity of angular rotation of the crown. In these examples, a greater velocity of rotation can cause a greater velocity of scrolling or scaling to be performed on the displayed view.


In some examples, tilting movements such as moving the crown up-and-down or side-to-side can allow more opportunities for a user to interact with a user interface of the electronic device. In order to detect tilting movements of the crown, sensors can be added to the electronic device, or sensors capable of detecting rotation of the crown can be configured to further detect tilting movements.



Apple's patent FIGS. 3A-3B illustrate components of an optical encoder that can be used to receive crown position information; FIGS. 5A-5C illustrate an exemplary top view of an encoder arrangement for detecting three-dimensional movement of a crown.


Apple notes that "Though the device is illustrated as being a watch, it is understood that the examples of the disclosure can be implemented in devices other than watches, such as tablet computers, mobile phones, or any other wearable or non-wearable electronic device that can include a rotary input such as a crown."


For the record, the idea of the digital crown for use with other iDevices is an established concept for Apple. In 2016 Patently Apple posted two reports (one and two) regarding the digital crown being considered for use on an iPad and beyond. So the revelation of the digital crown delivering three-dimensional input could also extend to other iDevices such as an iPad.


Apple's patent application was filed back in Q3 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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