Apple granted ‘iTime’ patent for smart wristband

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With no physical evidence supporting the ongoing ‘iWatch‘ rumors, we continue to search for other forms of proof that Apple is indeed working on a smartwatch. And today, we are adding a new piece to the puzzle with the ‘iTime’ patent.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the Cupertino company a patent today for a new device called the ‘iTime.’ It’s described as a smart wristband that contains various sensors and wireless radios, so it can talk to other devices…

The patent is very comprehensive, covering a lot of things—including some of the features that we’ve heard mixed in with iWatch rumors. The iTime can display incoming calls, text messages and other notifications on its built-in screen.

Here’s an excerpt on notifications from the patent app (via AppleInsider):

Another information exchange facilitated by the personal wireless environment 400 is a notification (or alert) that is initiated by one electronic device to a nearby electronic wristband (e.g., electronic wristband 402). An incoming phone call, a text message, a social network post, or a news feed directed to a user’s electronic device (e.g., mobile phone) can cause a notification to be provided to a nearby electronic wristband of the user. In effect, incoming messages or data to a user’s electronic device can be pushed (e.g., wirelessly transferred) to the electronic wristband. 

Besides information exchange, an electronic wristband can be use to provide remote user controls to a user. For example, when a portable media player (e.g., MP3 player, or mobile device (e.g., smart phone) operating media player application) is playing a media item, the portable media player can be controlled by one or more user controls made available by the electronic wristwatch. For example, the electronic wristband can be configured to present media playback controls on a touch screen of the electronic wristband.

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Apple also explains in the filing that the iTime can be controlled by gestures. They’re not talking about touch gestures though, like swipes and pinches, they’re talking about in-air motions that a user could execute to perform different functions.

Another aspect of embodiment of the invention pertains to use of gestures with one’s arm or wrist to provide a user input to an electronic wristband. For example, once a notification request is received at an electronic wristband, the electronic wristband can notify its user. The electronic wristband can also seek a response to the notification. In one embodiment, the electronic wristband can monitor one or more sensors to detect a user gesture with the user’s arm or wrist. For example, the sensors can include an accelerometer and/or gyroscope. Typically, the sensors are digital sensors. The gesture can correspond to specific movements of a user’s wrist or arm can vary with implementation. For example, the gesture might be a horizontal movement for one user input option (e.g., decline incoming call), and might be a vertical movement for another user input option (e.g., accept incoming call). For example, the gesture might be a single shake (or bounce, tap, etc.) of the user’s wrist for one user input option (e.g., accept incoming call), and might be a pair of shakes (or bounces, taps, etc.) for another user input option (e.g., decline incoming call). 

As usual, just because Apple patents something doesn’t mean it’s going to materialize into a real product. And even if it did, it’s very possible that it won’t look or act anything like the device shown and described in the original application.

That being said, the consensus right now is that it’s definitely working on some kind of wearable. It’s built up this enormous team of medical and fashion experts, and we have seen several reports from major publications pointing to the project.

If the current information holds, Apple will announce its new smartwatch at an event in October. It’ll feature more than 10 sensors for tracking various health and fitness activity, wireless charging, and a curved display measuring 1.5 to 3-inches.