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How would Autodesk make the Apple Watch work with the iPhone?

For the impatient, the answer is we would make both devices active participants for display and input. Like two mathematical musicians playing a duet, the beautiful music they create can equal more than two (perhaps it can go as high as eleven).

Antique Clock Phone
Composite of images by Tim G. Photography and Garry Knight under the Creative Commons License

OK. Confession time: we do not have an Apple Watch or a new iPhone and we did this research before they were announced. We used devices that are publically available. But, that should not make this research any less interesting.

With the premise that two tools working together can create greater values, the User Interface group at Autodesk Research, with partners at the University of Toronto and Carnegie Mellon University, started to explore these possibilities:

  • new input methods 
  • new security possibilities
  • new operational abilities 

New Input Methods

The watch has an acceleronmeter in it so it can provide intital information about how the hand it is attached to is working as an input device. Specifically, what is the orientation of the hand relative to the phone. Knowing the orientation of the hand means a person is not limited to the traditional finger tip press. People could now also enter data with:

  • the side of the finger
  • the back of the finger, also known as the knuckle
Autodesk Research Knuckle Input with Smartphone and Smartwatch
A person may use their knuckle as an alternative to their fingertip or as an additional tool

What could this do for reading email? You could have one finger touch point for navigation (move through message, go to next message, etc.), one finger touch point for email management (archive, delete, etc.) and one finger touch point for things like cut, copy and paste.  

Of course, a person is not limited to entering data on the phone. Wearing the watch on the inside of the wrist, so that the watch screen is oriented in the same manner as the phone screen in the hand, a person could be gesturing across devices:

  • swipe from phone to watch (to mute the phone and set the watch to buzz mode)
  • swipe from watch to phone (to unmute the phone and turn the buzz off on the watch)
  • close pinch across devices (to mute both devices)
  • open pinch across devices (to unmute both devices)

  Autodesk Research Multi Device Gestures on Smartphone and Smartwatch

And of course you could tap the phone and watch together or tap and flip devices to initiate additional commands.

Autodesk Research Smartphone and Smartwatch Double Bump

New Security Possibilities

Knowing a phone and watch are paired, could improve security - you can only use the phone if your watch matches. Plus, a new gesture could be made for unlocking the phone.

Autodesk Research Smartphone and Smartwatch Security

New Operational Abilities

This is where it really gets cool!

What if you used the watch as a tool to zoom in on a map without losing your position?

Autodesk Research Smartwatch to zoom in on Smartphone Display

What if you used the watch as a tool palette for the phone?

Autodesk Research Smartwatch Smartphone Tool Palette
New gestures and connections open up a lot of possibilities. You can read more about this research in the Autodesk Research paper entitled Duet: Exploring Joint Interactions on a Smart Phone and a Smart Watch as well as watching the movie below. What kind of things could you imagine doing with these abilities?


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