Smartwatches are supposed to make seeing notifications and using apps like Google Maps easier and more convenient, without taking your phone out of your pocket. However, because of a watch’s location on your wrist, and our need to use our hands and arms for other things, this isn’t always possible. A prototype device called Cito has been developed by a team at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire and the University of Waterloo, designed to overcome the visibility problems of wrist-worn computers.
The device contains several motors to automatically shift the watch face to an angle that’s visible to the wearer, regardless of whether they can conveniently move their arm to see the screen. For example, if you’re carrying a large item which requires both hands, and a notification comes through, the screen angles and tilts towards you automatically. You don’t need to put down what you’re carrying, but still get to read the message.
Another scenario, and one that perhaps more smartwatch wearers have experienced already, is the arrival of a notification when the watch is hidden under a sleeve, and your hands are wet, dirty, or covered in food. The Cito avoids you transferring whatever muck is on your hands on to your shirt sleeve, by extending the screen out from under the cuff and into view.
The screen is mounted on a platform which can not only extend and hinge, but also rotate around a special watch strap, orbit on its axis, or perform a combination of all these movements. Demonstrating the watch on video, its functionality can also be used to add feedback to button presses. With the screen tilted, it can provide greater resistance to a negative button push, and less resistance for a positive button push.
Assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, Xing-Dong Yang, said the Cito helps show, “the true potential of smartwatches,” and warns people will, “question the need for smartwatches if the devices are just not convenient enough.” Huawei CEO Eric Xu Zhijun recently asked why we need smartwatches when we have smartphones, and this concept device does help argue the device’s case by increasing its convenience.
However, it’s clear the Cito is still an early prototype, due to the majority of its hardware being stored inside a large box strapped to the wearer’s upper arm, so don’t expect it on store shelves any time soon.