Apple Won an Apple Watch Band Patent for delivering Tactile Notifications in the form of Symbols and/or Braille
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 73 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover a granted patent that skipped the patent application route under "Apple" so as to keep it as secretive as possible.
Today, as Apple is set to deliver Apple Watch 6, they were granted a patent that covers techniques for conveying information to a user without audio or visual outputs. The watch band will be able to present notifications to a user with tactile output. The user may first experience a haptic event on their wrist followed by a symbol and/or braille being formed on the band in real time so that the user could feel what that message is conveying.
Such systems may be useful for visually impaired individuals, or when audio or visual outputs are inappropriate. Technically a user could have their alarms turned off during a meeting or movie and yet still be able to be notified of an important message or phone call by forming a tactile symbol on the band and/or providing a haptic event to notify the user.
Technically speaking, Apple's invention relates to a possible future Apple Watch that comprises a flexible strap and actuators within the flexible strap. The actuators are configured to dynamically form protrusions along the flexible strap. The protrusions present tactilely-perceptible information.
The band for this future Apple Watch comprises a computing component and a band coupled to the computing component. The band comprises an inner surface for contacting a wearer, an outer surface opposite the inner surface, and tactile output mechanisms configured to selectively form and remove tactile symbols along at least one of the inner surface and outer surface.
A method for providing tactile output via a band of a wearable electronic device comprises receiving, at a band including actuators configured to selectively form deformations along a surface of the band, information from a computing component coupled to the band, and in response to receiving the information, causing a set of the actuators to form a pattern of deformations along the surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates an Apple Watch band that is designed to form braille. FIGS. 4A-4B show a wearable electronic device worn by a user.
Apple's patent FIGS. 3C and 3D show plan views of a future Apple Watch band with touch sensitive areas that allow the user to detect braille that will change as time changes; FIG. 5 is a partial plan view of a band for a wearable electronic device; FIGS. 6A-6B are partial cross-sectional views of the band of FIG. 5 with electrothermal actuators.
Further to FIGS. 6A-6B Apple notes that the amount of the actuation material (#602) in the enclosed space may be selected so that when the actuation material is in a solid phase, the flexible material of the enclosed space is not deformed, and when the actuation material is in a liquid phase, the flexible material defining the enclosed space is deformed (e.g., it protrudes outward to form the braille).
Apple adds that the actuation material may be any appropriate material, such as paraffin wax or another material that changes phase at relatively low temperatures, a gas, a liquid that expands or contracts when its temperature changes, and so on.
Lastly Apple notes that the thermal actuators (or other components) may be used to generate tactile symbols using regions of hot and/or cold along surfaces of a band. The hot and cold regions may be used in the same or similar manner as the protrusions; that is, they may also function as tactile output mechanisms.
For example, small regions of relative heat and/or cold may be used to form braille characters (or any other appropriate character) that a user can sense by touching with a finger.
As another example, regions of heat and/or cold may be produced along an inner surface of the band to convey time, notify the user of certain events, indicate progress of a task or event, or for any other appropriate function.
As yet another example, actuators of the band (or other wearable item) may form depressions rather than protrusions. Accordingly, depressions are yet another example of tactile output mechanisms.
While a future Apple Watch is the target device for this invention, Apple notes that other wearables could be targeted in the future such as a ring, glasses, gloves, a lanyard, belt, strap, connector and the like.
Apple's granted patent was originally filed in Q3 2016 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.