Apple may not have officially announced its plans for the much-rumored Apple AR/VR headset hardware yet, but its recent patents have seemingly been giving away some its plans – with the latest teasing a novel way of using the Apple Watch to control a headset.
How users control AR experiences seems to be one area that lot of companies have had mixed success. Google’s original Google Glass headsets introduced awkward head-twitches and the Nreal Air glasses forced you to use your smartphone – a difficult task when you can’t really see it with the glasses on. The only company to crack it so far is Meta with its Oculus Quest 2 (opens in new tab) AR features relying on either the regular controllers or hand-tracking, making for a much smother experience.
Apple has decided to go a different route though. Based on a recent patent filing (discovered by Patently Apple (opens in new tab)) Apple will seemingly reinvent the wheel with a setup that relies on a headset wearer strapping on two Apple Watch-like devices – one on either wrist. While not explicitly called Apple Watches, the diagrams look very similar to the California tech giant’s smartwatch, complete with touchscreen and Digital Crowns.
Once one watch is on each hand, the wearables would be able to use their electrodes to track gestures and various contact points on people’s palms so that they can control what they see on an Apple AR/VR headset.
Though, if you’ve been struggling to pick between two of the best Apple Watch options don’t take this as your green light to just buy both.
Firstly, as with all patents – especially for unreleased hardware – there’s no guarantee we’ll see Apple take this route with its tech. It could just be patenting the design before someone else can to keep its options open (or keep people of the scent of its real plans).
Secondly, there’s no guarantee that the Apple Watch 7 or any other of Apple’s currently available smartwatches would be compatible with what this patent lays out. Until Apple explains its plans publicly it’s possible we could find out that this feature is exclusive to the Apple Watch 8 and later.
Lastly, this wearable controller may not even need to be an Apple Watch at all. While we expect Apple would ensure its smartwatch can be used as a controller, we’d hope it would come up with a cheaper alternative wearable that works just as well. Based on the patent the wrist-based device just needs some of the Apple Watch’s functions, not all of them – potentially paving the way for a stripped-down (and cheaper) add-on.
We’ll have to wait and see what Apple announces, but with the Apple AR/VR headset not expected until next year, and the Apple Glasses even further away we might be waiting a while.
Looking for something you can do with your Apple Watch today? Here are the best Apple Watch apps of 2022.