Apple Patent Reveals Apple Watch's Digital Crown being eliminated and replaced with an Optical based System
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to the possible elimination of Apple Watch's digital crown. Apple envisions a new optical system that could recognize touch and gestures to replace the functionality of the digital crown which is subject to damage in a fall.
Apple's invention covers assemblies for user input components, and more particularly to, for example and without limitation, optical sensors of watches for user input.
Electronic devices, such as watches, can include one or more user input components, such as crowns, dials, and/or buttons, at an external surface thereof for receiving input from a user. The input components can provide the user with the ability to interact with and provide instructions to the electronic device.
However, user input components, such as crowns, can occupy space on a watch that could otherwise be occupied by other components of the watch. It also includes 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.
Embodiments of the invention can provide a watch with user input components that employ an optical sensor to receive input from a user.
The input components could provide a user with the ability to interact with the watch in a manner similar to how a user would interact with a crown that is rotatable and/or translatable.
For example, the user can provide motions and gestures near the input component that the input component can detect and interpret and user inputs to control an aspect of the watch.
The motions and gestures provided by the user can be directly detected with optical systems of the input component, so that the number of moving parts are reduced and space within the watch is more efficiently utilized.
While providing these benefits, the input component provides a user experience that simulates user interactions with a crown that is rotatable and/or translatable.
In Apple's patent FIG. 3 below, Apple Watch (#10) can include components for performing various functions, including interacting with a user. For example, the display (#20) can provide visual (e.g., image or video) output for Apple Watch and include an input surface for one or more touch input devices such as a touch sensor, force sensor, temperature sensor, and/or a fingerprint sensor.
In FIG. 3 above, I/O components (#76) can include buttons, keys, dials, switches, trackpads, and the like. The user input can depress, rotate, move, tilt, flex, or deform the I/O component in a manner that is detectable by the I/O component.
Further, The I/O component can include or be connected to one or more sensors that detect the input. Sensors can include, for example, force sensors, pressure sensors, optical sensors, or proximity sensors.
A haptic device can be implemented as any suitable device configured to provide force feedback, vibratory feedback, tactile sensations, and the like. The haptic device can be implemented as a linear actuator configured to provide a punctuated haptic feedback, such as a tap or a knock.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 above illustrates the new input component #40 that replaces the current digital crown along a side of the housing and could be flush with an exterior surface of the housing.
Apple's patent FIGS. 7 and 8 above we're able to see the input component #40 being able to detect a user input in the form of a sliding gesture from top to bottom.
More specifically, the example may use its optical sensor to detect motion, position, orientation, speed, acceleration, contact, and/or proximity of the user (e.g., finger, hand, or limb of the user. Once the user input has been detected, this information may be used to output or change information and images that are presented on a display or user interface of the watch.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 is an alternative design where the input component #40 can protrude away from the watch's body as the current digital crown does but includes a new force touch based button for accepting translational input from the user.
Apple's patent application that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q3 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Two of Apple's Inventors
Sameer Pandya: Product Design Engineer; was on the team behind Apple Watch Series 4.
Tyler Bushnell: Product Designer
Apple also updated an Apple Watch Granted Patent Today
Another Apple news site is covering an Apple patent today titled "Consistently-Tight Watch Band" as a new invention. It is not. Patently Apple covered this extensively back in October 2019 as a Granted Patent titled "Apple Wins Patent for a Next-Gen Apple Watch Band designed to deliver Constant Tension and Superior Comfort."
Apple is updating their patent claims to now include coverage for a rack-and-pinion mechanism. Below are from new Patent Claims 2 and 3:
(From Patent Claim #2) The first band portion comprises a rack; and the second band portion comprises a pinion gear, wherein the constant-force spring applies a substantially constant torque to the pinion gear.
Patent Claim #3: The watch band of claim 2, wherein: the rack is positioned on an inner surface of the first band portion; and the first band portion extends through an opening of the second band portion to align the rack with the pinion gear, wherein the constant-force spring draws the first band portion into the opening of the second band portion."
You could review all of the new patent claims in this the continuation patent here.