Google is working on a touch-sensitive bezel for its smartwatches, which could change the way we use the Pixel Watch 3.
The new bezel would enable users to make UI selections and control functionality without obscuring the touchscreen.
In a patent filing spied by Wareable, Google explains how sensors within the housing of the watch face could be used to control music, smart home devices, and view heart rate data – among other examples.
The sensors, which could potentially feature in a future version of the Google Pixel Watch, would respond to press, tap, squeeze, and swipe gestures and would have specific uses for specific apps.
The patent filing, entitled “gesture recognition on watch bezel using strain gauges” would represent a headline-making design change for the Pixel Watch range, which remained unaltered for the second generation. Future Pixel watches could be completely buttonless by deploying the tech explained in the patent.
Google says the current methods used to keep the display visible to users – such as the rotating crowns on the Pixel Watch and Apple Watch and the rotating bezel on the Samsung Galaxy Watch series – are “reasonably efficient” but not without flaws.
The patent filing explains the buttons, bezels and crowns make the manufacturing process more complex, they make it more waterproofing the device more difficult, while also damaging the aesthetic of the watch.
“Content on such a small screen is easily obscured when touching the device, making it difficult to precisely select and scroll because the user cannot see what they are selecting or scrolling,” Google says in the filing.
“Rotating scrolling buttons are used to scroll on many smartwatches today, and are reasonably efficient. However, they require a fairly complicated mechanical structure with very small moving parts. They further require waterproofing. Some users may prefer to remove the crown, such as for aesthetic reasons.”
So, adding the sensors within the watch would enable the control methods to remain within the housing itself. It would lead to a cleaner design overall, and enable processors to communicate with the sensors directly.
“One aspect of the disclosure provides an electronic device, including a housing, one or more sensors positioned along an inner periphery of the housing, and one or more processors in communication with the one or more sensors,” Google adds.
“The one or more processors may be configured to determine, using information detected by the one or more sensors, a user interaction with an outer surface of the housing, determine a type of gesture based on the detected user interaction, determine a type of input command based on the determined gesture, and execute a task corresponding to the determined type of input command.”
Of course, a patent filing is never a reliable indication of whether a manufacturer will bring the technology to market within a product, but this would certainly be a nice way for the Pixel Watch range – thus far underwhelming – to distinguish itself from the competition.
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