Apple might be working on replacing the iconic Digital Crown on the Apple Watch with optical sensors for touchless navigation. According to Patently Apple, the US Patent & Trademark Office recently published a new patent from the Cupertino company for optical sensors that can detect gestures or motion from a short distance.

The Digital Crown lets users navigate through watchOS, from zooming in and out, scrolling, activating Siri, and acting as the Home button. The patent, aptly titled “Watch with optical sensor for user input”, shows how new sensors can replace the dial to reduce the number of moving parts on the Apple Watch.

Apple watch digital crown optical sensor
[Photo: Patently Apple]

It’s noted that removing the Digital Crown for sensors could increase the durability of the watch, as well as free up space for additional sensors and a bigger battery. The optical sensor could potentially be used to also measure biometrics including heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygenation level, a blood volume estimate, blood pressure, and more.

There have been rumours that Apple plans to significantly upgrade the health capabilities of the Apple Watch in the future, which reportedly would include diabetes detection, fertility planning, and blood pressure monitoring. While there isn’t any confirmation from Apple about its lofty ambitions for the watch, Huawei has recently released one of the first-ever consumer smartwatches with a medically-certified blood pressure sensor.

(Source: Patently Apple)

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