Sensors in future Apple Watch straps could detect exercise movements, golf swings and much more

Apple Watch Workouts complete guide

An Apple patent approved today provides some answers to questions that Apple Fitness+ users and Apple Watch users, in general, have been wondering about for a while.

  • How do I know if I am doing this exercise correctly?
  • Is the timing of my bicep curl and grip strength good enough for this session? or
  • Am I over-rotating my wrist during this exercise?

Enter Apple’s smart band for Apple Watch

Apple’s patent “Systems and methods for determining axial orientation and location of a user’s wrist” provides clues about what the Cupertino Corridor residents might be thinking.

There is quite a bit of unused real estate on the Apple Watch band. This research proposal takes a direct aim at the wearable band and proposes embedding multiple sensors that can handle various monitoring operations.

It envisions the future Apple Watch strap/band as a combination of elastic and rigid sections.Apple Watch Smart Band

The elastic sections are housed with flex sensors, EMG (electromyography) sensors to measure the user’s muscle activity, and strain gauges (Piezoelectric sensors) to understand movement and physical properties associated with the user’s wrist. 

Capacitance sensors embedded in the band can help measure the amount of tension exerted by the user’s wrist.

The invention claims:

“A method of determining a performance of a wrist of a user, the method comprising: measuring a tension of the wrist of the user using one or more sensors included in a device; measuring a motion of the wrist using one or more of an accelerometer, a gyroscopic sensor, or a barometric sensor included in the device; determining the performance of the wrist using the measured tension and the measured motion; determining a type of the performance; accessing one or more stored performances corresponding to the type of the performance; analyzing the performance by comparing the performance to the one or more stored performances; and providing feedback to the user, the feedback generated from analyzing the performance and configured to show differences between the performance and the one or more stored performances.”

The systems and methods disclosed in the patent show ways of providing analysis and feedback to a user regarding the user’s performance (e.g., sports performance), noise reduction and/or cancellation, hydration detection for prolonged EMG sensor longevity, and user identification.Smart Apple Watch band for exercise monitoring

Strain gauges (Piezoelectric sensors) to the Apple Watch band are interesting for users who participate in different sports activities.

When a user grips an instrument such as a golf club, baseball bat, etc., the strain gauges can be used to determine how tightly the user is gripping the sports instrument. The user may then follow through with a specific sports motion (e.g., swinging the golf club or throwing a football).The motion sensors (e.g., accelerometer 342 or barometric sensors 364 of FIG. 3) can measure the user’s performance in terms of, for example, acceleration, the trajectory of the sports instrument, etc. 

The device’s controller can analyze the user’s grip and performance by comparing the measured and determined information to ideal characteristics (e.g., stored in memory). Based on this comparison, the device can simulate the user’s performance and/or feedback to the user on how to improve (step 564 of process 550). 

The Apple patent was originally filed in 2018 and approved today. It is hard to say if and when this will actually be incorporated into a commercial product as with any patent.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see that Apple researchers understand some of the gaps associated with online fitness/sports offerings and are thinking about new ways to assist Apple Watch and Fitness+ users.

After all, Apple’s latest Assistivetouch feature on the Apple Watch with hand gesture recognition showcased the powerful software updates that can originate from Cupertino corridors.

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I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.

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