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The Cito prototype rotates, hinges, translates, rises, and orbits to add convenience for smartwatch users. (Credit: Jun Gong)

In an effort to make digital smartwatches more convenient for users, researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Waterloo have produced a prototype watch face named Cito that moves in five different directions. With the ability to rotate, hinge, translate, rise, and orbit, the model improves functionality and addresses some of the limitations of today’s fixed-face watches.

Most smartwatch research primarily addresses how users can more easily input information. However, Cito aims to remove awkward moments associated with using smartwatches by improving how the device presents data to the wearer.

Examples of watch movement — or actuation — include automatically orbiting around the wristband to allow viewing when the wrist is facing away from the user; rising to alert the wearer of a notification if the user is occupied; hinging to allow a companion to view the watch face; and translating to reveal the watch face from underneath a shirt sleeve.

The five watch face movements can be performed independently or combined. Beyond making the watches more convenient for users, the technology can provide important benefits to wearers with physical disabilities or other impairments.

In developing the prototype, researchers conducted two separate studies to confirm the usefulness, social acceptability, and perceived comfort of different watch movements and usage contexts. With continued research, the team is planning to integrate innovations like an ultra-sonic motor to reduce bulk and increase battery life to make the actuated watch technology more practical.

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