A new patent published Tuesday suggests that the iWatch may be able to able to detect if the user is lifting a weightlifting bar, and count and display the recorded repetitions. Metrics related to intervals between movements could be compared against previous sessions and displayed on an iOS device so that the user could track their progress over multiple sessions.
Interestingly the patent — which was filed in 2012 — specifically mentions a shoe-based sensor, similar to fitness-tracking sneakers like the Nike Hyperdunk+ basketball tracking shoes. In the years since then, however, Apple has pulled back on patent references to shoe wear-out sensors and unitless measurements, but kept the body-bar sensing system and associated watch readout. Other possible devices named in the patent include potential future generation iPods and iPhones.
The technology itself would work by incorporating Hall Sensors, accelerometers, processors, as well as its own on-board display — although this information could also be offloaded wirelessly to another device.
As described, the sensor hardware could clip onto appropriate fitness equipment, such as a barbell, dumbbell, or machine apparatus, and then take movement readings to count proper repetitions. In some iterations of the patent, the sensor would be a standalone unit capable of moving from one piece of equipment to the next, while another embodiments describes something more like a bar-clamp that would remain on one specific piece of equipment like a bench press.
Preferable to this, however, would likely be a system used in a device like the Jawbone UP or Nike FuelBand SE, where the wearer does not have to remove the sensor in order for it to “understand” specific movements.
While Apple hasn’t yet shared any public details of the iWatch, it is thought that the company will announce it at a special event this October. A recent ad for the iPhone 5s and the forthcoming Health app for iOS 8 have served as recent demonstrations of Apple’s interest in the fitness-tracking and healthcare aspect of its devices going forwards. Apple reportedly views the mobile health push as a “moral obligation.”