The patent details the automatic sensing of where a wrist band, leg band, ankle bracelet, or other wearable device is located on the body.
Apple was recently granted a patent that shows an Apple Watch but that also mentions identifying the location on a user’s body of several other types of wearables. The list includes portable devices that can be worn on the wrist, an armband or leg band, ankle bracelet, earbuds (such as AirPods), and headphones (perhaps AirPods Studio). As these are all used at body locations that have a left and a right side, knowing which side they are on can be important for various computer-assisted functions and for tracking health and fitness.
The Apple Watch is a good fitness tracker, but it could be even better. Tracking movement could be done much more accurately if limb position and side could be identified. Currently, the Apple Watch relies on the user to manually enter whether it is worn on the left wrist, as is most common for right-handed users, or on the right wrist, where most people with a dominant left hand would choose to wear the watch. The reason this matters is that if the setting doesn’t match the correct wrist, the raise-to-wake feature will not activate when the arm is lifted.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently granted Apple a patent that details methods of automatically identifying the body location of various wearable devices by analyzing data from multiple sensors. For example, accelerometer data can be used in conjunction with knowledge about how human limbs are moved to detect which side is left and which is right. The patent notes that these devices would have potential uses for tracking health and fitness. Clearly, the Apple Watch excels at this, but tracking the movement of more than one limb would allow it to have even greater accuracy. Tracking more movement would allow calories burned to be counted with better fidelity. Also, identifying the type of movement or exercise would be more successful.
Apple Patent: How It Might Work
The patent also mentions using data from magnetometers, gyroscopes, proximity, and inertial sensors. Readings from one or more wearables could be combined to determine relative locations on the body. This sounds quite similar to another recent Apple patent application that seemed to be a description of the AirTag. This patent, unlike the patent application, makes no mention of ultra-wideband technology. So, these may not be related but, instead, an alternate system that relies on the Apple Watch, AirPods, and possibly future wearables, such as leg bands and ankle bracelets.
As always, it’s important to remember that references to devices within a patent do not mean that they will ultimately be made into actual products or give any timetable for when that might happen should Apple does decide to launch more wearables. With the great successes of the Apple Watch and AirPods, though, it would not be surprising to see similar more similar wearable offerings.
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