Update: Don’t hold your breath folks, Corning who supply glass for many of Apples products recently announced its Willow Glass prototype is at least three years away from production.
The Apple iWatch was confirmed on the companies drawing board according to a recent patent filing.
The application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August 2011 is titled “Bi-Stable Spring With Flexible Display.” It describes a flexible touch-screen device that can display information. The device can be worn in any location, according to the patent, though one of the drawings shows it being worn around the wrist.
It coincides with a report from a tech consultancy suggesting there is huge pent up demand for such a gadget suggesting about 485 million wearable computing devices might ship by 2018. Not all published patents lead to actual products, but Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have all published reports this month saying sources had confirmed Apple was experimenting with a watch-like device.
The device itself would use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to communicate with another portable device, presumably a smartphone, to display real-time information on the screen. An on-board gyroscope or accelerometer would arrange the information so that it directly faces the user no matter how the device is worn.
Apple puts a hi-tech spin on the idea proposing a “slap bracelet” featuring a flexible circuit board and display, a touch sensitive user interface and a two-way communication chip, which would curl around the user’s skin.
It suggests the gadget could detect which part of its surface was covered so that its readout would be limited to the exposed screen, with information flowing over the join.
Apple suggests lights along the device’s edge could be programmed to blink when the user receives an alert, before displaying the details on its screen.
It says the user could then provide a brief response or use the bracelet to command a wirelessly connected smartphone, tablet or laptop to carry out another function such as adjusting the order of a song playlist or reviewing what recent calls had been made.
Apple acknowledges that the relatively thin nature of a wrist band would limit its uses, but suggests a wider armband could also be developed.
“At the width of a few inches the display can function to temporarily view and manipulate the screen of the portable device it is in communication with,” says the paper.
“This might be desirable when the portable electronic device is stored in an inconvenient location such as a cargo pocket, or the bottom of a backpack.
Several technical challenges remain on how the device may be powered to sustain operation. Looking at wearable technologies the use of power becomes an issue. No one wants to be plugging in four or five products a night to recharge – energy harvesting or wireless recharging technologies are going to become incredibly important. Apple’s patent suggests harvesting energy from the movement of the user’s arms and only coming out of standby mode when a sensor detects the device has been rotated to face a certain way.
See Nine Features the iWatch needs via CNET.