It looks as if Samsung is attempting to tackle the shortcomings of diddy smartwatch displays by integrating projectors into wearable devices. A patent filed by Samsung with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) details a wearable device with an embedded projector capable of casting an interactive virtual display onto the wearer's hand, or any other surface.
The document describes a smartwatch or other wearable device featuring a projector, camera and processor capable of mapping out the surface area of the wearer's hand and then projecting a UI within those boundaries. The device would also be capable of projecting an image up to the user's fingers, or alternatively down their arm. Users could then control the device from the projected UI.
Examples of how this could be used include casting a keypad onto the back of the user's hand or showing key information related to navigation-based searches. Maps can be notoriously fiddly on smartwatch displays so this function could potentially pull out key details on locations to save you having to zoom in and out repeatedly on the map.
"A wearable device typically has a smaller display screen than [those of] other terminal devices. Thus, accurately receiving touch input through a display screen or touch panel of a wearable device can be difficult because a user's finger can be larger than a selection area on the screen, causing the user to accidentally select an incorrect icon or other displayed item," explains the patent.
The wearable would also be capable of reading input gestures from the projected surface area, meaning you could draw messages on the back of your hand and see them pop up on your smartwatch display as text or a picture. Alternatively, the device could project menu options down your arm or cast your display onto a wall for when you need an extended view of things.
The patent also extends to headsets, suggesting Samsung could also be eyeing up a use for the technology within virtual reality/augmented reality scenarios. One image shows an image being projected onto household items to make them interactive to a user wearing a VR/ AR headset.
It's an intuitive way of tackling the current foibles of wearable devices, which currently find themselves of limited use beyond being a fitness tracker or a secondary display for your smartphone. If Samsung follows through with its research, the company may help wearable tech find the wider audience it so sorely craves.