A patent application spotted by Patently Apple suggests that the Apple Watch turning on its display as you raise your wrist could be just the first of many supported gestures. Pointing, waving and even extending pinky and thumb in a ‘phone me’ gesture could all be used to initiate actions on either the Watch itself or a paired iPhone.

While voice and touch input can be an effective way to control a device, there may be situations where the user’s ability to speak the verbal command or perform the touch gesture may be limited.

This [patent] relates to a device that detects a user’s motion and gesture input through the movement of one or more of the user’s hand, arm, wrist, and fingers, for example, to provide commands to the device or to other devices […] The device can interpret the gesture as an input command, and the device can perform an operation.

Apple gives a number of illustrative examples of such gestures …

Turning your hand palm-down and making patting motions could decline an incoming phone call, lifting or dropping your hand palm-up could raise or lower the speaker volume and waving a hand sideways in front of you could turn a page in an ebook. You can see a table of examples below.

But the patent application is far more ambitious than this, depicting someone using sign language, and the paired iPhone able to recognize the signs and convert it to spoken or written language.

Apple describes how the wearable device could use a wide variety of sensor types to detect and interpret gestures.

One or more optical sensors, inertial sensors, mechanical contact sensors, and myoelectric sensors, to name just a few examples, can detect movements of the user’s body. Based on the detected movements, a user gesture can be determined.

This is obviously a far more complex undertaking than some of the Apple patent applications we share, but it’s not difficult to see how even today’s Apple Watch could detect and act on some of the simpler gestures. As always, there’s no telling whether Apple will choose to implement any of the ideas described – we just share the ones which seem particularly interesting.

Apple last updated the Watch two weeks ago, with the launch of watchOS 2.2.


FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear