The Digital Crown on the Apple Watch is one of its most distinctive visual features. It also helps users navigate the watch interface without using the screen besides playing a role in turning some functions like locking the screen, etc, on and off. However, Apple might be considering removing the Digital Crown in the future and replacing it with optical sensors instead.
According to reports, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent this week from Apple that shows the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch being replaced by optical sensors that can identify user gestures.
Named “Watch with optical sensor for user input”, the patent demonstrates how Apple can use new sensors that will allow users to scroll through the watch interface “while reducing the number of moving parts in the Apple Watch with the removal of the Digital Crown”. The new optical sensors can detect the gestures made by users and turn them into system controls.
Apple has noted in the patent that removing the Digital Crown will make the Apple Watch more durable and will also free up space that can be used to house other components like other sensors or a larger battery.
“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 utilised,” the company explained in the patent.
Since the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch also features an electrical heart sensor that enables ECG, the optical sensor mentioned in the patent will also be equipped and able to measure heart rate, breathing rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, etc. This corroborates some of the rumours that have been doing the rounds regarding the upcoming health features on the 2022 Apple Watch that includes blood pressure monitoring.
Now, since this is currently at just the patent stage there is really no knowing if and when Apple might bring this change into the wearable.
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