Apple has been known for researching and providing accessibility features in its devices, whether or not it’s profitable. Thus far, there has been a limit to what the Apple Watch can do, and its bands could have no accessibility features whatsoever.
That may soon change. “Tactile output for a wearable device,” is a newly granted US patent that aims to change that, and sooner than later, there could be Apple-designed bands that display Braille information.
While Apple wants its patent to cover ANY electronic device possible with its patent, most of its descriptions and preliminary wireframe drawings refer to the Apple Watch and what Apple refers to as actuators.
Actuators are components that respond to a processor and cause other elements to move or rearrange.
These bulges or protrusions they plan on including in Apple Watch Bands are similar to the raised dots in Braille, but Apple says they needn’t be restricted to that one system. Rather than following the established models of whole words in Braille, the same protrusions could be configured to “also or instead be dynamically and/or selectively actuated to form the shapes of alphanumeric characters.”
Apple Insider first reported the research on accessibility and innovation as related to Apple Watch Bands. While the patent is technologically exciting for those with handicaps, the timeline for providing the new technology is unclear.
Also unclear is Apple’s intent with such a broad patent; those with handicaps are more susceptible to lower incomes. Apple products tend to be on the pricier side, and holding the patent to accessibility innovations, makes one wonder how accessible it will be for the underserved that need such.