It seems as though device manufacturers are increasingly hoping that consumers will supplement their expensive smartphones with smartwatches that can cost hundreds of dollars. There’s a problem though with this train of thought: using a tiny smartwatch display to navigate through UIs can often be a test of your patience, which can instead have you reaching for your smartphone out of frustration.
Samsung is looking to alleviate some of those frustrations not by making the physical display on future smartwatches larger, but by actually extending the display via the use of a miniature projector. The projector would be use to beam certain UI elements right onto the back of your hand or on your forearm, greatly expanding the total usable area to interact with the device. A built-in camera would then process “commands” as they are input with your fingers.
As you can see by the images provided in Samsung’s patent, one such projected overlay is a dial pad that could be used to place a phone call. Samsung also suggests that the projected display could be used to call up a keyboard or even select menu options for the smartwatch or installed apps. And if projecting a display onto your body parts isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you can also extend the display to a wall or desk.
Although there’s no indication that Samsung will actually put such a system into production (many cool patents like this just sit, unused by their creators), it would solve one of the big problems that people have with today’s smartwatches. A lot of people have trouble justifying spending hundreds of dollars on a brand new Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S2 or Motorola Moto 360 when their smartphones can perform most of the exact same tasks, often much faster. That in turn makes smartwatches for most people a glorified secondary display for notifications.
But with an invention like this, which actually makes smartwatches seemingly more useful, consumers just might be tempted to take the smartwatch plunge.