This goes way beyond washing hands. A newly discovered patent from Apple suggests the company is looking to scan the veins in your wrist and hand as a way to sense non-touch gestures.
Apple Insider discovered the patent filing, dated August 2018 and named "Vein scanning device for automatic gesture and finger recognition." In other words, the watch would record images of a wearer's wrist as they move their hand around, performing various gestures.
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Currently, Apple's smartwatches have an optical heart rate sensor and an infrared sensor that can scan your veins for your heart rate and more, the patents indicate that additional sensors would be required in the watch band itself, so as to capture what your veins are doing on the underside of your wrist.
While we only have rumors about what features the Apple Watch 6 will have, none of the speculation has pointed to vein tracking as a way of registering gestures. However, given Apple's interest in augmented reality, we could see gesture control being used in conjunction with Apple AR glasses.
Touchless gestures could also be helpful in other applications, such as those with mobility issues, or for interpreting sign language gestures.
From fall detection to sensing atrial fibrillation, Apple has of late been ahead of the curve when it comes to adding sensors and health features to its smartwatches.
Touchless gesture controls have been tried out, with limited success, on other mobile devices such as smartphones. Some drones, too, can be controlled using nothing but hand gestures. So, it remains to be seen what will become of this patent from Apple.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.