We’ve covered a laundry list of Apple Watch rumors, reports, and patent applications hinting that Apple has much larger [and healthier] ambitions for the future of its popular wearable.
Not only has Apple explored a variety of new Watch designs, including one model featuring a circular display, but the company has also thrown its gusto behind a so-called modular’ Apple Watch concept, which would allow users to attach or detach a variety of use-specific accessories to their device.
These attachments, according to some of Apple’s previous patents, could include a variety of tools from a modular Bluetooth speaker, to a camera lens attachment, or even advanced health monitoring utilities.
Apple’s Chief Executive, Tim Cook, has on several occasions hinted at his company’s interest and ultimate goal of developing advanced health monitoring tools, which, in theory, would either attach to or wirelessly interface with an Apple Watch on-demand.
In fact, since as far back as 2016, Apple has secretly been meeting with high-ranking FDA officials in a bid to fast-track some of these potentially game-changing diagnostic tools.
Currently, Apple is believed to be pursuing a range of these tools — including a standalone echocardiogram (EKG) monitor, a blood glucose monitor for diabetes patients and even advanced sleep tracking tech — for possible implementation into future Apple Watch devices or accessories.
On Thursday morning, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published yet another Apple patent relating to the company’s Apple Watch, specifically as a reliable aid in preventing sunburn.
Originally filed back in December 2017, but published this morning, Apple’s “Light-based Shielding Detection” patent (No. 20180202927) details a technologically-advanced sunscreen detector which could be used in conjunction with a portable device like Apple Watch.
The patent literature notes that while sunscreen can be characterized by its sun protection factor (SPF), the particular product’s effectiveness is ultimately based on several factors — such as how much is applied, the sunscreen’s water resistance threshold, or even the wearer’s skin sensitivity, for example.
Apple’s invention, in purely technical terms, is meant to help users by reminding them to reapply sunscreen as needed, which could aid tremendously in the prevention of sunburn. Of course, Apple being Apple, the concept is quite a bit more complicated than that..
According to Apple Insider, the focal point of Apple’s application is a “UV-IR spectrometer” device (illustrated above) — described as an “ultraviolet and infrared detector” which could be configured to highlight exposed areas of a user’s skin.
On the OLED display of a connected Apple Watch, meanwhile, the user would be able to scope out regions or “entire body parts” that may be lacking sufficient protection — in addition to issuing notifications of when, where, and how often to apply more sunscreen.
Apple’s patent literature also details a variation of this concept utilizing a “UV-IR spectrometer” in conjunction with an “illumination system” capable of producing UV and IR-spectrum light, which Patently Apple explains would provide for more detailed detection in darker environments, such as a covered outdoor bathroom.
Utilizing a camera lens and augmented reality (AR), any unprotected areas of the skin detected by the utility can be created into a graphic that overlays an image or video feed giving the user deeper insight into precisely which areas of their skin need attention.
Remember to keep in mind this is still a patent application, and the likelihood or timing of a product like this coming to market is unknown. Still, considering Apple’s ever-growing portfolio of similar health-centric and diagnostic inventions relating to Apple Watch, this one doesn’t seem too improbable, either.
Meanwhile, Apple is widely expected to unveil a new family of Apple Watch Series 4 models this fall, potentially boasting up to 15% larger OLED display panels, slightly-modified designs, and upgraded internal components — but it’s currently unknown if the company plans on introducing new Apple Watch health accessories, too.