Nice gestures for the Apple Watch: patent indicates better one-hand operation

If you wear an Apple Watch, you usually have to use both hands to operate it. A new patent gives hope for new input methods.

A new patent awarded to Apple suggests that gesture controls could play a bigger role in the Apple Watch in the future. This should enable users to control the watch with just one hand. Sensors built into the watch, which records the movements and inclination of the device, play an important role in this.

Patent number US 11,520,416 B2 was published by the US Patent Office on December 6th. Entitled “Interaction with an electronic device through physical movement”, it is stated that some operating techniques are cumbersome and inefficient. If it is a smartwatch, for example, the operation requires both hands and arms of the user – the arm on which he wears it and the other arm with whose hand he operates it. This has a particularly negative effect when the user is also carrying something in one hand, is out and about with gloves in winter, or has to hold on to the bus or train.

In watchOS 5, Apple introduced “raise to speak” – a feature that allows raising the wrist joint to activate voice input via Siri. This function enabled an alternative control method in the interaction of gesture and voice control. The AssistiveTouch operating aid goes a few steps further. It detects whether the wearer of the Apple Watch taps one or more fingers together or clenches his fist and translates these gestures into control commands that are displayed on the screen to select an area, for example.

The now-published patent, which was filed in 2019, describes possible use cases in the event of a call. For example, the user can answer a call or select from the template list of canned quick answers in a screen display that resembles a game of skill with a bead. Operating gestures could be turning the wrist or tilting the arm. The maze game-like operation is intended to prevent accidental actions.

The Apple Watch has had the necessary sensors for motion detection for a long time. They are mainly used today for fitness tracking and could also be helpful for this extended gesture control.

However, if Apple receives the protection of ideas from the patent office, that does not mean that a new function or a new device will actually go into series production. However, improved capabilities in gesture control could also be of interest in view of Apple’s alleged plans for a mixed-reality headset for Apple, since this would inevitably be controlled by user movements and voice inputs.

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