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Google’s upcoming Pixel Watch and Pixel Buds could introduce skin gestures

Because tapping your skin doesn't make you look mad

For a while now, we’ve heard that Google is working on a smartwatch called the Pixel Watch. Most smartwatches currently offer a similar set of features, but what if Google could deliver something completely new?

A patent from 2020 spotted by LetsGoDigital suggests that Google is working on a skin gestures feature. This would let you tap the skin next to a wearable smart device, and have that tap control the device. Pretty clever stuff, eh?

Image from WIPO via LetsGoDigital

In Google’s patent, the filing uses Pixel Buds to demonstrate skin gestures in use. To use this new feature, accelerometers inside the device would detect “mechanical waves” that travel from the touch on the skin to the wearable device.

While the patent sketches show skin gestures used with Pixel Buds, the patent explains it works with any wearable. We expect a feature of this level will debut in the Pixel Watch rather than the earbuds, as it’s totally new. It’s also easier to cram extra accelerometers in a smartwatch than wireless earbuds.

This isn’t the first time Google has experimented with alternative gestures. The Pixel 4 had a feature called Motion Sense, which used a dedicated sensor to track your hand movements above the device.

Motion Sense never really went anywhere, and was rather hit or miss. The feature was phased out in future Pixel smartphones, and remains gone. Perhaps skin gestures will be a more successful gesture, but we’ll have to wait and see.

We’re yet to see this skin gestures feature released in any of Google’s wearable products. Since this was only a patent filing, Google may not even be working on the tech anymore. But if skin gestures are still coming, we’d expect them to debut in this year’s upcoming Pixel Watch, or the next Pixel Buds generation.

Image from Ian Zelbo