Today the US Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to their ‘Digital Crown’ possibly being a part of a future AR/VR or MR headset from Apple. It may also eventually extend to smart glasses and visors. The crown may be able to control a number of unique functions like assisting a user to zoom in on an image, control volume, display brightness and more.
A head-mountable device can be worn by a user to display visual information within the field of view of the user. The head-mountable device can be used as a virtual reality (VR) system, an augmented reality (AR) system, and/or a mixed reality (MR) system. A user may observe outputs provided by the head-mountable device, such as visual information provided on a display. The display can optionally allow a user to observe an environment outside of the head-mountable device.
Other outputs provided by the head-mountable device can include speaker output and/or haptic feedback. A user may further interact with the head-mountable device by providing inputs for processing by one or more components of the head-mountable device. For example, the user can provide tactile inputs, voice commands, and other inputs while the device is mounted to the user’s head.
It can be desirable to provide a mechanism for a user to provide inputs to a head-mountable device to facilitate user interaction with the head-mountable device. It can be further desirable to provide a mechanism for providing feedback to the user. Such feedback can be provided in the form of haptic feedback delivered to the user.
However, haptic feedback can feel unpleasant when applied across an entire device that is mounted on a head of the user. Where the user is providing tactile inputs by contacting an input member with another portion of the body, such as a finger or hand, the haptic feedback can be locally applied to that portion of the user’s body, so that the haptic feedback is delivered in a way that is effective and pleasant to the user.
Apple’s invention covers systems that can provide a head-mountable device with a crown module with an input system that allows a user to provide inputs by rotating or otherwise applying torque to a crown of the crown module. The head-mountable device can interpret the rotation and/or torque as a user input.
The crown module can further include a feedback system that provides localized haptic feedback at the crown. The haptic feedback can be effectively perceived by the user at the crown without causing the entire head-mountable device to vibrate against the head and/or face of the user.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below illustrates a top view of a head-mountable device (HMD) that includes Apple’s Digital Crown module (#200) that receives input from a user and provides feedback to the user; FIG. 2 illustrates a top exploded view of a head-mountable device with the Digital Crown.
Apple’s patent FIG. 5 above is a cross-sectional view depicting an integrated electrode pair. FIG. 6 is a perspective view depicting a wearable device comprising an electrodermal activity sensor having an integrated electrode pair.
The Feedback System
The crown’s feedback system can provide haptic feedback based on activities performed by the head-mountable device. For example, the haptic feedback can correspond to visual information that is output to the user by the head-mountable device. By further example, visual information can be modified by use or operation of the crown, and haptic feedback can be provided to indicate how the user can interact with the visual information.
For example, the user can rotate the crown in one or both of two directions to cause the head-mountable device to perform certain actions. Such rotation be performed to control the volume of a speaker, the brightness of the display screen, visual output of the head-mountable device, optical settings of an optical subassembly, or control other hardware settings.
Rotation can be performed to scroll through a list or other set of items visually displayed by the head-mountable device.
While a first type of haptic feedback can be provided as the user rotates the crown, a second type of haptic feedback can be provided to indicate how the user can interact with the head-mountable device and/or limitations regarding the user input. For example, as the user scrolls through a list displayed by the head-mountable device, a first type of haptic feedback can be provided based on the user input (eg, speed of rotation, etc.). By further example, as the user reaches the end of a list, a second type of haptic feedback can be provided to indicate that the user has reached the end of the list.
Additionally, or alternatively, different types of feedback can be provided in this way for other actions, such as zooming in on or out of an image, changing volume settings, changing display brightness, and the like.
The head-mountable device can include one or more sensors (eg, eye sensor) for tracking features of the user wearing the head-mountable device. For example, such sensors can perform facial feature detection, facial movement detection, facial recognition, eye tracking, user mood detection, user emotion detection, voice detection, etc. For example, an eye sensor can optically capture a view of an eye (eg , pupil) and determine a direction of a gaze of the user.
Apple’s patent FIG. 8 below illustrates a block diagram of a head-mountable device with the Crown Sensor at #272/350.
For more details, review Apple’s granted patent 11,402,925.