August 2, 2021

In which direction the use of the UWB is pointing in future products

Ultra-broadband (UWB) communication is progressively reaching various Apple devices thanks to the U1 chip. This chip, which was presented as “spatial awareness”, brings interesting novelties to the devices, but in which direction is the UWB pointing? What will be the next step? Let’s gather some rumors and see what news could we see in this field.

U1, the union of the ecosystem on a physical level

Thanks to the U1 chip, devices can calculate with great precision where they are relative to each other. This technology is what allows us to precisely locate our AirTag, for example. A spatial awareness of where and how far away different devices are it is something that can open doors to new experiences and functionalities. The case of Universal Control, which we saw in the last WWDC21, is one that, although it does not yet rely on the UWB to function, it can benefit greatly from it.

The U1 chip, however, is being quite elusive to some devices. It’s not available, for example, on the new AirPods Max or Apple TV 4K HDR or its new Siri Remote, making us wonder what the future of technology is. For some generations now this chip is included in the iPhone, for example, where it serves, among other things, to be able to open our cars with a single touch.

Given its timid, although increasingly widespread, presence, and without going into talking about future virtual or augmented reality glasses, a patent that this week has received the approval of the regulatory body in the United States is striking. Entitled “Location systems for electronic device interactions with environment” the patent explores how the directionality of one device in reference to another can be used to improve the experience and change the way you interact.

Future augmented reality glasses would greatly benefit from this cross-device spatial awareness.

Apple analyzes how a device similar to a remote control, although in the patent it looks more like an iPod classic, can sign up for one or another device in our house to interact with the. Broadly speaking, we could say that a Siri Remote, or equivalent, could control the volume of the TV if it is pointed at it and the volume of the stereo if this is the one we are aiming for.

Patent

The detection of this directionality would be carried out by the chip U1, or even U2, which would allow to determine the angles with precision and act accordingly. Such a system would also allow Apple display different information on the “controller” screen depending on where we point it, something that, without a doubt, can be very useful in the face of virtual or augmented reality glasses.

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Patents like this, and a few others, give us a glimpse of how Apple is polishing and developing spatial awareness technology. A technology that already offers us interesting uses today and that, as it evolves and spreads to more and more devices, will give even more of itself.