Samsung has thus far introduced wearable computers under the smartwatch category which they branded as Gear and Gear 2. They most recently introduced a new fitness band which they've branded as Gear Fit. The market hasn't really taken to the smartwatch as of yet as fitness bands have outsold smartwatches easily 4 to 1. Although Samsung rushed their first smartwatch to market just to say they were first to market, recent patents tell us that they're working on future versions of wearables that are better thought out. The first one surfaced in September 2013 and gave us a peek at a next generation wearable computer that Samsung has in mind. Now we get to see Samsung's latest patent filing regarding next generation wearable computers and this time they provide us with much richer details to sink our teeth into. Samsung's focus this time around is sharply on the introduction of a smart "Bangle." The design of the Bangle is to provide the user with a wider display that will be able to better run applications like music, fitness, email, Facebook and much, much more. The idea closely mirrors one that Apple first introduced back in February 2013 – though it does provides us with many new features that are uniquely Samsung's. The Bangle will be able to be used as an e-Wallet communicator, provide smart zooming functions for photos and maps and much, much more. If you want to know some of Samsung's thinking about a next generation wearable device, then this report definitely delivers the goods.
Samsung's Patent Background
With the development of electronic technologies, various kinds of electronic apparatuses have been developed and distributed. In particular, as high performance parts can be microminiaturized in recent years, the electronic apparatuses can be implemented in a small size and accordingly mobile devices equipped with a variety of functions such as a mobile phone, a tablet PC, a laptop PC, and an MP3 player are increasingly used.
Most mobile devices are put into a user's bag or pocket and carried by the user. For example, when the mobile device is put into a pocket and carried, the mobile device is likely to come out from the pocket when the user sits on a chair or lies down. Therefore, the risk that the user loses their mobile device increases.
In addition, when the mobile device is carried in a bag or pocket along with things like keys, the mobile device may be end up scratching or damaging their device's display.
Therefore, there is an increasing need for a method of manufacturing mobile devices in a form that is easy to carry. In addition, there is a need for a method for controlling an operation of such a mobile device easily.
Samsung Invents the Smart Bangle
Samsung's patent application relates to a new wearable computer that is bangle-styled and includes a display and a motion sensor that could be configured to change the user interface on the display to operate many kinds of applications.
In accordance with an aspect of Samsung's present disclosure, when the display is moved in a first direction while a content is being played back, the controller may change the screen to a previous content playback screen, and, when the display is moved in a second direction opposite to the first direction, the controller may change the screen to a next content playback screen.
As you can see in patent FIGS. 2A and 2B above, the bangle's display is designed to move in both forward and backward directions. When the first part #100-1 slides and rotates along the second part #100-2, the device's controller may perform an operation corresponding to the sliding phase.
Also shown in patent FIGS. 2A/B is a "connector surface" which is set between the two parts and has a surface that is coated with material having less friction, so that the first part easily slides on (or in relation to) the second part. Samsung notes that the space between the parts may be filled with lubricating material such as liquid or gas.
The protrusions illustrated as patent points A-D in patent FIGS. 2A/B above are spring loaded. When the display is moved forward or backwards, the springs under the protrusions move down so as to allow the display to move smoothly. When the user stops their rotating motion, the springs are released and the protrusions spring back to between the upper protrusions noted as patent points 1-2-3-4 and lock the display firmly into place.
As the user rotates the display to a certain point, a new application and user interface will be displayed.
Motion Detection: Wrist Gestures
In respect to operating the device, Samsung notes that the user may be able to make distinct gestures to control the bangle's functionality such as raising an arm in a certain way, using a controlled flicking action of the arm or simply rotating their wrist in a certain manner while wearing the bangle.
In Samsung's patent FIGS. 6, 7, and 8 below we're able to see examples of an operation corresponding to a motion direction of a mobile device. More specifically, we're able to see in patent FIG. 6 that the user has made a flicking gesture to quickly and automatically move the display forward and a reverse action brings the display back as seen in FIG. 7.
When such a gesture is recognized, the controller changes the user interface or app displayed on the display. For example, in FIG. 6 when a motion in the first direction is detected while screen 2 is displayed, screen 1 which was a previous screen will be displayed. In contrast, when the user makes a gesture of flicking in a second direction as shown in FIG. 7, screen 3 which is a next screen is displayed.
Samsung notes that the bangle's built-in controller may skip over a plurality of phases according to a degree of flicking operation, and, when the user holds the flicking operation without returning it to its original state or position, the controller may continue to change the screen – so that the user can quickly skip to a favorite app as noted in FIG. 8 where app 1 became app 7 within a second or two depending on the speed of the rotation that the user is able to set.
Map and Photo Zooming
In Samsung's patent FIGS. 13A, 13B, and 13C noted below we're able to see that beyond rotating the bangle's display to change apps, the user will be able to perform a zooming function once within certain apps such as Maps or Photos. In such apps the user is given the option to zoom. Once the zooming feature is chosen, rotating the bangle's display will then enable the display to zoom in or out depending on the direction that user rotates their display.
Locking and Unlocking the Samsung Bangle
Another interesting feature that Samsung emphasized in their patent filing related to locking and unlocking the bangle's operations. Samsung states that when the user moves their arm up to a certain angle it automatically turns on the bangle as noted in patent FIGS. 15A-C below.
The built-in camera will then use a face recognition function to unlock the device, though alternative methods of unlocking the device may be applied. Later in the patent filing, Samsung describes the camera "detecting the user's eyes," though they never elaborate upon this feature. Whether they'll use some form of iris scanner or other eye-movement technology to determine if the eyes are real versus being a photo is unknown at this time.
When the user lowers their arm naturally in a resting position or away from camera, the device will automatically go to sleep to conserve battery life.
The camera, according to Samsung's filing, may be very sophisticated for a miniature camera. A general-purpose lens, a wide-angle lens, a zoom lens, or any kind of specialty lens may be employed.
The Bangle may Include Flexible or Rigid Materials
Below you'll find a series of designs that Samsung is contemplating for their new smart bangle. Samsung notes that some of the designs could be designed using flexible materials for the band while others are clearly designed with a more traditional set bangle shape. The flexible style band could technically be considered a watch strap design.
In the case of patent FIG. 27, Samsung describes their design as "handcuff shaped." That could either be interpreted as being something kinky or a peek at something that "Big Brother" could use in the future. While we're on the topic of Big Brother handcuff designs, do you remember this shocking revelation? Perhaps Samsung is considering various other markets beyond the consumer for the "handcuff" design.
Samsung further notes that the display panel that may be implemented in future bangles include a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED), an Electrophoretic Display (EPD), an Electrochromic Display (ECD), a Plasma Display Panel (PDP), and/or the like.
Though going by what Samsung stated about OLED during this week's keynote regarding their new tablets, Samsung is likely to use their latest OLED display technology here as well.
Firmly Fit with Cushion Comfort
Comfort of course is going to be one of the factors considered when users choose a wearable computer for their wrist and Samsung has paid particular attention to details on this front for their new smart bangle.
To get the right comfort and fit for a user's wrist, we able to see in Samsung's patent FIG. 28 below a new creative system that includes an inflatable cushion under patent point #2830 which includes an air driver. According to Samsung, the cushion is provided on the inner surface of the bangle closest to the user's wrist. They further note that the cushion could be made with polymer resin such as rubber or vinyl that is able to be expanded and contracted by using an air mechanism.
Due to this particular bangle design not including an openable latch of any kind, the diameter of the bangle, according to Samsung, should be larger than the thickness of a user's wrist so that the user can easily slip their wrist into the bangle.
In this particular configuration, the bangle will include a wearing-command button as noted as patent point #2810 and a release button noted as patent point #2820. The user simply presses the wearing command button to begin adding air to the cushion under the bangle's face. The user then presses the release button when the right fit has been achieved.
That's a pretty interesting idea – if Samsung will guarantee it for five years. Otherwise it's a feature that could render the bangle close to useless in no time flat if the air compression feature fails to keep it snug to the user's wrist. One of the key points that Samsung made in their patent background summary is that it was easy to lose a smartphone as it could slip out of your pocket therefore a bangle could solve this problem. So it's an important selling feature that Samsung would have to get right.
Other Optional Design Features
Other miscellaneous design considerations include adding hardware based function buttons (171, 172, 173, and 174 of the left side patent FIG. 29 below) so as to control turning the bangle display on or off, changing a mode, a shortcut function, selecting, controlling a volume, and activating/inactivating apps.
Samsung's other patent FIGS. 37A and 37B noted above on the right present the view of special user interfaces related to "lists" that could be scrolled through quickly.
Another interesting feature can be seen in Samsung's patent FIGS. 47A, 47B, and 47C noted above which illustrate a user gesture to display new "indicators." In some ways it looks like a mini-rolodex that will be able to display much more information than a simple list can. It can turn the "lists" that were first noted above in patent FIGS. 37A and B and turn them into informative cards in an instance. That's a nice idea too.
More specifically, the bangle (mobile device 3300 above) displays a first indicator #4710 in a list UI #4700. In this state, when the user long-taps the first indicator or holds the first indicator with the user's hand, a second indicator #4720 is displayed beside the user's finger as shown in FIG. 47B.
The second indicator may be comprised of index information that is greater and more specific than the first indicator. The user may move the list on an index basis by scrolling or rubbing while tapping or holding the second indicator.
Samsung's Mobile Storage Drawer
When it comes to storage metaphors, Samsung introduces us to one that will be appreciated by both student and business users alike. In Samsung's patent FIG. 44A noted below we're able to see a list UI #4400 which is displayed in the form of familiar tools such as a filing cabinet, a desk drawer, a bookshelf, a box, and the like. Here, an application item is displayed in the form of paper, photos, and files that could be found in piles.
Samsung's FIG. 44A noted above illustrates application items which are displayed in the form of files. An application name may be recorded on each file. In this state, when the user selects one file, noted as patent point #4410 above, a graphic effect then can be initiated to provide the appearance of the file being opened or a memo being flipped.
In patent FIG. 44B, we're able to see that a memo application has been selected and an execution screen displaying the content of a memo being displayed. When the memo content is long, a menu (as shown in patent point #4411above) will appear listing the memo's content.
In addition, when many memos are stored, an image (see patent point #4412) will appear to illustrate that there are a plurality of documents in a pile to review. In this state, when the user touches a corner of the memo and drags or flicks it, it'll appear that the user is turning over the page to see the next memo. For example, the execution screen may be expressed in the form of an adhesive memo pad or what is better known as sticky notes.
Location and e-Commerce Services
In one area of Samsung's patent filing they note that when the mobile device is employed in a vehicle such as a bicycle, an auto bike, or a car instead of the user's body, the mobile device may be used by detecting a moving direction or speed of the vehicle. For example, the mobile device or "bangle" may display locations of members of a group or may inform the user of whether there is a member distanced away from the group.
In addition, when the mobile device is used in a shopping cart of a major supermarket, the mobile device may communicate with a server provided in the major supermarket, and may support various services. For example, when information on a product that the user wishes to buy is input, the mobile device may display a location or direction of the product to be bought.
In addition, the mobile device may provide a variety of event information provided by the server through a screen or a sound. In addition, the mobile device may display a list of products that the user wishes to buy, or may allow the user to make a payment for the bought product directly using a card recognition function.
Miscellaneous Patent Points
The bangle type refers to a type that the user can wear on a part of the user's body, such as wrist, ankle, belly, and head.
The bangle may be configured to include a geomagnetic sensor or a gyro sensor and an acceleration sensor to detect motion in various directions and to recognize shaking patterns, a movement order, a rhythm, and a direction using the motion sensor.
The bangle may include an Electromyogram (EMG) sensor disposed on a part of the inner circumference of the body of the mobile device that is directly in contact with the user's body. The controller recognizes a change in the user's position based on a detecting value output from the EMG sensor, and performs a control operation corresponding to the recognized change in the position.
The bangle will include a communications chip to connect with external devices like a smartphone. The bangle comes with a microphone, so taking or making phone calls will be an option. Voice recognition will allow users to make phone calls simply using voice commands.
Samsung notes that "when a gesture of slapping high fives to another user who wears a mobile device of a bangle type is detected, the mobile device may exchange commands or data with the mobile device of another user using NFC or other wireless communication methods." I can see this being a part of a TV ad in the future.
While the bangle will offer a watch function, the main thrust of the patent is on applications from music to health and exercise to email, TV, maps, Facebook, photos, memos and more.
Samsung filed their US patent application back in Q4 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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