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A patent recently filed by Apple seeks to use advanced sensors on a newly-designed Apple Watch band to evaluate sports performance when using third-party equipment, such as golf clubs, baseball bats, footballs or barbells.

The company is looking to build a new smart band with a number of sensors that would analyze how a wrist moves and rotates and how that information correlates with the movement of third-party equipment.

To enable the watch to better analyze sports performance, Apple proposes putting motion sensors on the band itself, such as an accelerometer and gyroscope; flex sensors, which would be able to determine the expansion and contraction of a user’s wrist muscles; and electromyography sensors that would measure a user’s electrical signals, according to the patent, published with the US Patent and Trademark Office at the end of March.

According to Apple, strain gauges embedded on the underbelly of the watch and its band would be used to determine how tightly the user is gripping a particular piece of sports equipment. As the user follows through with a specific sports motion, such as swinging a golf club or throwing a football, the motion sensors would measure the user’s performance in terms of acceleration and trajectory of the equipment.

The data collected by those sensors would then be analyzed against other ideal performance metrics (or the user’s own historical data) to provide feedback about their throw or swing.

Apple says the motion, caliometric, and EMG sensors could also be used to analyze the metrics of, say, a bicep curl to measure weightlifting performance and determine if a user is performing an exercise properly. Their device would be able to inform them if they’re over rotating their wrist during the exercise or gripping weights too tightly, according to the patent.
SportTechie Takeaway:

While Apple files hundreds of patents that never see the light of day, this one is interesting because it would signify a more advanced watch for measuring sports performance and analyzing particular metrics when using third-party sports equipment.

Most of the wearable devices that exist today (including the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic) use motion sensors to determine when a user starts and stops running, swimming or performing aerobic activities, as well as EMG sensors to determine calorie burn and heart rate data. On the other end of the spectrum there’s smart sports equipment that provide users with performance metrics based on specific sports and exercises, such as bats with sensors that can read a baseball player’s swing; swimsuits with sensors that can measure a person’s stroke, distance and speed; and connected running shoes (such as Under Armour’s HOVR shoe) that track pace and cadence.

The new Apple Watch bands proposed in this patent would represent a mesh between these two: enabling athletes to track all the aerobic activities they already use the watch for but adding in the additional measurements typically found in third-party smart sports equipment. It’s impossible to say whether these technologies proposed by Apple would be as accurate as existing smart sports equipment, such as the Diamond Kinetics smart bat that is now used for scouting and player evaluation, but the patent at the very least indicates a vision in which all of these fragmented products and technologies eventually begin to consolidate.