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Sony's cylindrical display will shake up wearables

Wearables have evolved unrecognizably from the original wristwatches of the early 19th century, but manufacturers still have ship their hardware attached to low-tech wristbands for lack of a better option. The first exception may be Sony, which hopes to exploit recent advancements in display technology to break out of the trend line.

Revealed in one of the electronics giant’s latest patent filings is an entirely new kind of wearable with an ultra-thin screen that removes the need for a band entirely, curving around your wrist into a cylindrical shape that achieves the same effect. But its rigidness means that the design handles slightly differently, requiring you to close your palm in order to put on the wristband.

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The display will have be made as thin as possible for that arrangement to pass the convenience test, which Sony hopes to accomplish by using the “e-paper” display technology from its Fashion Entertainments subsidiary, according to the patent filing. It’s the first indicator of the material’s ability to curve, a detail that the company has decided to keep close to vest thus far.

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Strategically placed throughout the outer surface of the e-paper display are pinhole cameras that will enable the wristband to gauge your field of view and activate a matching portion of the screen. Therein lies one of the main reasons why Sony thinks consumers will appreciate the design: Not having to adjust the display every time you shift in a different angle.
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The design also provide you with option of manually tracing the parts of the display you wish to active with your finger, which is made possible thanks to a touch panel that will span its full length. But most users will rarely have to resort to feature since the filing indicates that the wristband will able to tailor the amount of screen real-estate used based on the content being viewed.

The main benefit of that automated sizing, besides making it much easier to switch between activities like watching video and checking the time, is saving power. The amount componentry in the design means that the wristband will still draw more power than a band-mounted alternative like the Apple Watch, resulting in a shorter battery life, but that’s a sacrifice many consumers would likely be willing to make in exchange for all the added functionality.

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