A front-facing selfie camera with FaceTime functionality is among the most frequently requested Apple Watch features. But while we’ve yet to see a camera officially debut on the watchOS-powered wearable, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that one is on the way.
This was rumored several years ago, prior to being illustrated in a patent that was awarded Apple by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) back in June 2016. In the text of its patent, No. 20160174025, Apple notes that “zero, one or more cameras can be provided,” and “the camera can be disposed on the front surface of Apple Watch face to capture images of the user.”
Of course, while these highly-technical patents don’t always translate into fully-functional products, there was — and is now even more — evidence to support the concept.
Apple’s New Camera Patent
On Wednesday, Apple was granted yet another patent by the USPTO, which specifically relates to an “Apple Watch specialty band” that could feature between one and two built-in cameras allowing the user to capture selfie images, short videos or conduct FaceTime calls.
Of course, while this isn’t the first patent Apple’s ever been granted covering these so-called Apple Watch “specialty bands,” it’s the first which delves into further detail about the broader concept presented previously.
Apple’s latest patent, for example, covers additional new details about their invention of an Apple Watch band with in-built cameras for capturing and processing images. It would also have the ability to conduct FaceTime calls, while being able to intelligently track the user’s face so that images appear stable (notwithstanding any sudden wrist movements.)
The concept is illustrated in Apple’s patent (FIG. 1), above, which shows the top view of an Apple Watch band-embedded camera, referred to herein as the “image-capturing device.” (FIG. 3), meanwhile, illustrates a user engaging with the image-capturing device, while (FIG. 4) and (FIG. 5) depict example data outputs.
“Apple’s invention describes image-capturing devices (cameras) that can process captured images and output image data based on the captured images,” PatentlyApple explains, adding that “the source image may have been captured by one or more cameras of the image-capturing device, which may be a watch.”
The literature goes on to note that these cameras may have wide-angle lenses, and/or multiple lenses, which can help a user capture larger, more detailed images.
In one embodiment, the mechanism would include two cameras (each with its own wide-angle lens), a watch body, and a watch band coupled to the watch body, implying that the imaging sensors would be embedded within the modular band strap — as opposed to the Apple Watch, itself.
While the literature goes on to outline a number of potential features, including the proposed camera system’s advanced facial tracking and automatic image cropping abilities, it’s worth noting that this is just a patent as of right now — and, accordingly, it’s unknown if or when a product like it might arrive on store shelves.
Still, even though the company just released its most capable and feature-packed Apple Watch yet, we now have even more reason to believe that the best is yet to come.