LG Electronics is considering a new smart watch with improved functionality provided through a camera sensor that can move around the wristband depending on usage, based on a patent discovered by the Dutch technology blog LetsGoDigital. The smart watch shown in the images is presented in a series of different configurations that make that goal possible, each with its own unique twist on the concept. In all cases, the camera is connected to the watch wirelessly as part of the band instead of the main hardware housing to allow repositioning. The images and their descriptions show a band that is wound in a pulley style around the joint pin. In one instance of that, the entire band is rolled so that the camera can be rotated almost 360 degrees. Another shows only a partial loop or a camera placed on a slider for a 180 degree movement. More novel concepts include velcro or magnets and a raised area or clip-type camera module that can be completely removed.
This movement without wires allows you to fulfill a series of purposes, from taking a group photo or selfie to scanning barcodes. In an example provided by LG, the camera is even used to capture an image of a dessert for information on nutritional value and metrics. You can also allow customizations of the watch face, with the user taking an image and placing needles or a digital time reader over the top of the photo as a background. The associated software in the same clock allows the editing of photos or links directly to a website or other medium after an image is adjusted with a QR code. That same process could allow users to take a more traditional bar code image to obtain product information or initiate a purchase directly from the watch.
A fresh twist on bringing smartphones and watches closer
The search for designs that allow manufacturers to place a smartphone on a consumer’s wrist is nothing new, but it has remained elusive for several years. Companies from Nubia to Samsung have conceptualized or exhibited prototypes and designs around the concept, generally articulating the invention in flexible screen panels. Usually, these would be folded around a user’s wrist or removed and flattened to use as a more traditional phone. Samsung has even gone so far in designing patents that they would allow flexible and stretchable displays to wrap around the wrist in a kind of hybrid between watches, smartphones and tablets. For now, these ideas are beyond the reach of current technologies and would cover a need, but they also represent a drawback for users. This is because they would have to remove or wear the watch if they want to use their phone for more traditional things like calls, text messages, applications or the camera.
The latest LG patent describes at least one way in which the concept could approach the reality that its previous smart watches and those of other original equipment manufacturers have not achieved. The cameras have become a key selling point and one of the most important parts of a smartphone in recent years. Clocks can now perform many tasks typically associated with smartphones through the tight relationship of Wear OS with Android, but with a more appropriate design and interface. By placing the camera on the watch band and providing fully functional software, LG allows users to take pictures and interact in a similar way as they do with a smart watch or tablet without removing the watch. The design could also pave the way for use in a wide variety of smart watches, since it connects wirelessly and is placed on the watch band instead of the watch.
Patented designs do not always show technologies or use cases that are practical in the real world. The newer design of LG does not seem to fit perfectly into that category, since it depends only on the inventions that currently exist and are widely used. There may be limitations due to some aspects of the hardware, such as the processing units or materials available to OEMs and the costs of those materials. There is also the issue of LG really deciding whether to go ahead or not with a project based on this patent. But this is a design that at least seems feasible and, if implemented correctly, could have a game-changing impact on the entire smartwatch market.