Apple patents hint at force sensors for wearables, biometric virtual keyboards
It is all about new sensing technology in the two latest U.S. patent awards for Apple.
Spotted by Patently Apple, the new patents involve potential sensors for Apple’s Watch and smart bands, but could also be integrated with wearable medical devices and smart glasses.
Patent US 20220349765 A1, available on the patent office website, also describes a sensing surface that, when pressed, could apply a force that is detectable by a fluid pressure sensor.
Unlike conventional force sensors, which are typically bulkier and unable to detect slight or gradual changes, the technology described by Apple is designed to be both small and precise, making it useful for advanced sports equipment and noninvasive medical devices.
If integrated into a Watch, the sensor could be positioned close to the wearer’s radial artery to determine blood pressure, pulse transit time, augmentation index, arterial age and stressor state, heart rate.
The force touch sensors could also be integrated into Apple’s MacBook trackpads. Here too, according to the patent, the sensors could perform readings related to health monitoring, biometrics or medical sensing while also providing proof of physical presence.
Finally, the invention describes an assembly of pressure sensor modules arranged to increase the sensing surface, potentially for future iPhone and iPad devices.
Apple recently received another patent, also covered by Patently Apple.
The document describes a virtual keyboard with multimodal biometrics that would provide several inputs for future MacBooks and Macs.
The technology uses multi-touch two-dimensional sensing (via a dedicated camera) to enable a user to control the functions and operation of an electronic device by tracking and recording the positions of all fingertips in contact or proximity to a sensing surface.
According to the patent, number US 11481109 B2, there are several independent sensing modalities including face, voice and finger biometrics, as well as gaze recognition, body temperature and pupil size.
Apple says the image sensor would be embedded underneath or recessed behind the surface of the device.
The two Apple certifications come a couple of months after the company published a trio of patents describing biometrics applications for several devices.