One of the things about the Apple Watch that has been constant throughout the years is the Digital Crown. It lets users navigate through watchOS without having to constantly touch the screen. However, it looks like Apple is experimenting with it and is finding alternate solutions for it. A new patent granted to Apple by the US Patent & Trademark Office talks about how an optical sensor could replace the Digital Crown on Apple Watch.
The patent named “Watch with optical sensor for user input” demonstrates how an optical sensor would be used to understand hand gestures. It shows how the users will be able to scroll on Apple Watch using just an optical sensor without the need for the Digital Crown. In addition, the patent also discusses that removing the Digital Crown would reduce the number of moving parts in the Apple Watch. The optical sensor would detect the gestures made by users, understand them, and turn them into system controls.
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.
Apple also notes that removing the Digital Crown will also free up some in the Watch. This space could be utilized for more health sensors or bigger batteries. In fact, the next-generation 2022 Apple Watch is said to come with a blood pressure monitor sensor and removing the Digital Crown for an optical sensor could save some space for that sensor.
The Digital Crown on the current-gen Apple Watch models also houses the electrical heart sensor that enables the ECG feature. The patent also discusses how the new optical sensors could also be used to measure heart rate, breathing rate, blood oxygenation level, blood pressure, and more, without the need for the electrical heart rate sensor on Digital Crown. However, we should keep in mind that Apple has just been granted the patent. So, there might be some time before we see this (if we ever) implementation in an actual Apple Watch.
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