A patent application disclosing a slap bracelet supposedly relating to a rumoured Apple ‘iWatch’ did the rounds on tech blogs and webcomics when it was published earlier this year. Coincidentally, on the same day, another US patent was published for Google Glass. IPCopy takes a closer look at what can be gleaned from this pair of wearable technology patent applications.
Google’s Project Glass was first officially announced a year ago at the beginning of April 2012, and just over half a year after the application published as US2013/0044042 was filed. This application appears to be a high level view of the Google Glass device and goes into great detail about the configuration of the frame and the arrangement of the components of the device. There are three independent device claims in the application, each relating to a broad concept for Google Glass with subtle differences between them, such as an adjustable bridge of the frame. Notably, only one of these has an dependent claim relating to the prism that is used as the display on the prototypes. The claims themselves are fairly narrow, probably with the aim to ensure patentability over existing head mounted computers. It could be possible that the prism display itself is covered by a separate application, that would cover similar subject matter to that of a teleprompter.
All in all, this application does not appear to give too much away about what we might see in the future possibilities of Project Glass than could be determined from the prototypes themselves, yet Google filed a request that this patent application was not published (they later rescinded this request in order to file the application outside the US). The devices illustrated in some of the figures are very similar to the prototypes demonstrated outside Mountain View. This is likely to be a contributing factor to why this patent application was so highly publicised compared to some of the patents from Google’s portfolio that could indicate more specific potential features of Google Glass.
Other than our heads, our wrists are another area that technology companies want to capitalise on. Many could cite Pebble’s success on Kickstarter as a demonstration of the demand for smartwatches (multi-function watches that can pair with a mobile phone to alert the wearer to incoming calls and messages, as well as tell the time) and so the amount of speculation for Apple to create a product in this emerging category is not surprising. The publication of an application, US2013/0044215, showing that Apple is/was working on a flexible display suitable for wearing on a wrist leading to rumours that they are indeed planning on releasing such a product. However, this patent specifically relates to flexible display technology which is not yet mature enough to allow Apple to market an affordable and durable smartwatch of this form in the near future.
The method disclosed in this application involves the ‘iWatch’ device acting as a display and connecting to another mobile device, probably an iPhone or iPad, with the intention that the mobile device would do most of the ‘heavy lifting’, reducing the need for a large battery in the smartwatch itself. This suggests that Apple aren’t intending on going down the watchphone route.
Both applications are currently in the international phase, with their PCT applications published on the same day as their US counterparts.
Laurence Lai 28 May 2013