If you've so far resisted the temptation to buy yourself a smartwatch, then a new prototype device called Cito could have enough moves to pique your interest again: It can rotate, lift, twist and more to grab your attention.
The extra mechanisms are more than just a gimmick, though – they're intended to give smartwatches a much broader range of capabilities. So, for example, the watch face could orbit around your arm when your wrist is facing away from you, or lift up from its casing if you want to show someone else the time.
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For those moments when your hands are full and your shirt sleeves are down, meanwhile, the watch face can slide out until it's in view. Another example demonstrated by the research team was for an incoming emergency call, where the watch face continually rotates until it has your attention.
The display could even rotate and point out directions to help you navigate around, while keeping messages and other information the right way up and readable. Different notifications could also be associated with different movements.
When needed, different movements (or "actuations") can be combined, and driving the research was an intention to improve the way data is presented to the wearer. The ultimate aim is to make smartwatches both "functional and fun", according to the researchers behind Cito, from Dartmouth College in the US and the University of Waterloo in Canada.
"Users want smartwatches that fit their lifestyles and needs," says Xing-Dong Yang, assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth. "The Cito prototype is an exciting innovation that could give consumers even more great reasons to wear smartwatches."
That's something both Apple and Google would welcome – although this prototype is going to have to get a lot more compact and run off a much smaller battery before it's ready to be released in the wider world.
Admittedly it's a long way from being ready for primetime, and we're not sure a rotating hinge would be enough to double the sales of something like the LG Watch Sport, but it's at least an interesting idea for where wearables could head next – even if it is a little ridiculous at the same time.
What the fledgling smartwatch scene is still waiting for is a killer app that's going to make them compelling buys for more than just a few tech enthusiasts, so perhaps prototypes like Cito can help spark some creativity from manufacturers.
As well as one day making smartwatches more functional and versatile, these actuations could help people with physical disabilities or other impairments, suggest the researchers.
"We recognize that our work investigates a radical idea, but our hope is that we also show how a methodical and principled approach can explore any such radical visions," the team writes in its paper.
That paper is due to be presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems later this week. In the meantime you can see Cito in action via the video embedded below.
Source: Dartmouth College