The Apple Watch Series 4 increased the smartwatch’s screen size and improved the Digital Crown so users could more intuitively interact with apps and notifications. But Apple might soon introduce a handful of gesture features that could let wearable owners navigate the next-generation Apple Watch without any tapping or scrolling involved.
Currently, the Series 4 requires users to press, swipe, or drag their finger across its face to see notifications or use an app. But the upcoming Apple Watch Series 5 could let owners answer a call by clenching their fist, say, or respond to a text with a flick of their wrist, according to company patent filings published Thursday.
In documentation submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Cupertino-based company revealed it was working on motion-sensing components for the successor to the Series 4. Similarly to how Tom Cruise manipulated holograms using hand gestures in Minority Report, Apple Watch users could one day scroll through a prewritten text responses on the device by simply moving their wrist.
These newfound features could be made possible by the Series 4’s electrocardiogram (ECG) heart monitor and a built-in tilt sensor. The latter would sense when when users flick their wrist to scroll through quick iMessage replies. Here’s how the patent describes the feature:
In response to this movement of the electronic device 500, the predefined responses 814a-814d are scrolled down such that a predefined response in the upper region of the display screen 504 (e.g., predefined response 814b) is moved toward the center region of the display screen 504 and the predefined response at the bottom of the display screen 504 (e.g., predefined response 814e shown in FIG. 8F) is no longer displayed.
The Series 5 could also leverage its heart monitor to detect hand gestures. The patent explained that when users make a fist, their blood flow pattern “increases in intensity.” The smartwatch could detect these subtle bodily changes to let users answer a call by closing their fist for a couple of seconds to answer a call:
In response to the clenched positioning of the user’s hand, the answer call affordance 904 is enlarged in size. The change in visual appearance of the answer call affordance indicates to the user that their clenched hand has been detected by the electronic device 500, and the answer call operation will be carried out if the user’s hand is held in the clenched position for a predetermined time.
The introduction of these feature could be a key to overcoming the Apple Watch’s biggest hurdle: The fact that its small screen isn’t all that easy to navigate for certain users. Both of these features would likely be optional as well, so you can just tap and opt altogether if you’d like. But with Google working on gesture controls for their devices, it’s only natural that Apple would want to develop their own take motion-detecting tech.
Google’s Project Soli venture uses radar sensors to detect finger motions to let users toggle options on their wearable. The possibility that both companies are bringing distinct gesture features to the table could mean that wearable tech is moving away from screen interaction, and toward a more intuitive motion interface.