LG Electronics is considering a brand new smartwatch with enhanced functionality provided via a camera sensor that can be moved around the wristband depending on use, based on a patent discovered by Dutch tech blog LetsGoDigital. The smartwatch shown in the images is presented in a number of different configurations that make that goal possible, each with its own unique twist on the concept. In every case, the camera is connected to the watch itself wirelessly as part of the band rather than the main hardware housing to enable repositioning. Images and their descriptions showcase a band that is looped in a pulley style around the conjoining pin. In one instance of that the entire band loops so the camera can be rotated around nearly 360-degrees. Another shows only a partial loop or a camera placed on a slider for 180-degree movement. More novel concepts feature velcro or magnets and an embossed area or a clip-style camera module that can be removed completely.
That wire-free movement allows it to serve a number of purposes from snapping a selfie or group photo to scanning barcodes. In one example provided by LG, the camera is even used to capture a picture of a dessert to get insight into estimated about nutritional value and metrics. It can also allow for watch face customizations, with the user snapping an image and placing watch hands or a digital time reader over top of the photo as the background. The associated software on the watch itself enables photo editing or linking directly to a website or other media after an image is snapped of a QR code. That same process could allow users to snap an image of a more traditional barcode in order to get product information or initiate a purchase directly from the watch.
A fresh twist on bringing smartphones and watches closer
The pursuit of designs that allow manufacturers to put a smartphone on the wrist of a consumer isn't at all new but has remained elusive for several years now. Companies from Nubia to Samsung have either conceptualized or showcased prototypes and designs around the concept, ordinarily hinging the invention on flexible display panels. Those would generally be flexed around a user's wrist or taken off and flattened out for use as a more traditional phone. Samsung has even gone so far to patent designs that would allow for both flexible and stretchable displays to be wrapped around the wrist in a kind of hybrid between watches, smartphones, and tablets. For now, those ideas are just out of reach of current technologies and would fill a need but also present an inconvenience for users. That's because they'd need to take off or put back on their watch if they want to use their phone for more traditional things like calls, texting, applications or the camera.
LG's latest patent outlines at least one way that concept could be brought closer to a reality that its previous smartwatches and those from other OEMs have failed to do. Cameras have become a key selling point and one of the most vital parts of a smartphone over the past few years. Watches can already accomplish many tasks typically associated with smartphones via Wear OS's close relation to Android but with a more appropriately focused design and interface. By placing the camera on the band of the watch and providing fully functional software, LG enables users to take images and interact similarly to how they might with a smartwatch or tablet without needing to remove the watch. The design could also pave the way for use on a huge variety of smartwatches since it connects wirelessly and is positioned on the watch band instead of the watch.
Patented designs don't always showcase technologies or use cases that are practical in the real world. LG's newest design doesn't seem to fit neatly into that category at all since its dependent only on inventions that currently exist and are widely used. There may actually be limitations in place because of some aspects of hardware such as processing units or the materials available to OEMs and the costs of those materials. There's also still the matter of LG actually deciding whether or not to move forward with a project based on this patent. But this is one design that does at least seem feasible and, if implemented correctly, it is one that could have a game-changing impact on the entire smartwatch market.