Apple seeks a patent for an Apple Watch camera that could be used for Face ID

Apple seeks a patent for an Apple Watch camera that could be used for Face ID
Above: The latest version of the Wristcam watch for the Apple Watch. Apple would like to place a built-in camera in the same location.

Last month we told you about a patent awarded to Apple for a system that would allow the Apple Watch to be removed from the band using a latch or a magnet giving the user access to the camera found on the back of the watch. This sounds like an interesting idea but is not as simple and seamless as the Apple Watch camera system floated by Apple in a new patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (via AppleInsider) titled "Wearable electronic device having a digital camera assembly."

While the position of the camera in this system might remind you of the third-party Wristcam accessory which replaces the band on an Apple Watch to place a camera above the watch face, Apple wants an Apple Watch camera to be streamlined rather than bulky. The tech giant even mentioned this in the patent application when it wrote, "While certain electrical components, such as a camera, may perform desirable functions, the integration of such components may result in a bulky device which may hinder user performance, may be uncomfortable to wear, or may be unsuited for performing certain functions

Apple wants the camera to deliver images using a sensor ranging from .9MP to 12MP. At the same time, it wants the camera to be able to take videos using a resolution of up to 4K at 30-60 frames per second. That's because Apple has wide-ranging plans for the camera. According to the patent application, "The digital camera assembly may be used for a variety of purposes including, as non-limiting examples, facial identification, fingerprint sensing, scanning a Quick Response (QR) code, video conferencing, biometric monitoring (e.g., heart rate monitoring), photography, video or image capture, or any combination thereof."

Apple adds, "To perform one or more of these functions, the digital camera assembly can be directed toward a subject. The assembly could be connected to internal circuitry, such as the battery of the timepiece.

The patent application talks about putting the camera on a protrusion and the trick is finding a location where it can be placed without being a distraction for the Apple Watch user. As Apple writes, "For example, in implementations where a digital camera assembly is positioned within an internal cavity (e.g., camera cavity) of a protrusion, the digital camera assembly may extend from the housing, over a band slot, and away from a display, a battery, a circuit assembly, or sensors of the wearable electronic device."

The patent was filed last August and credits five Apple employees with the "invention." Of course, there is no guarantee that Apple follows through with this patent application, especially since the ball is now in the court of the USPTO. But it might might be a lot easier to unlock your phone or your iPad Pro by looking into the camera attached to your Apple Watch.

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