A recently discovered patent suggests that Google experimented with the idea of putting a camera slap-bang in the middle of the face of a smartwatch at some point in time. LetsGoDigital discovered the patent filed earlier this week in July 2017. The patent is simply titled "Camera Watch" and contains seven diagrams of the unpublished design.
There was a time when cameras in smartwatches were far more common. Samsung, for example, has a camera built in 2013 and 2014 for both the Galaxy Gear and the Gear 2. In recent years, however, they have become rarer. Apple has never included a camera in an Apple Watch (although a patent suggests that it was previously considered to include one in the watchband), and cameras were missing from other recent Samsung, Fossil, and Garmin smartwatches.
It's not hard to see why smartwatch cameras have not found a permanent home. There is very little room for a decent sensor and it can be difficult to make a well-framed shot out of it. And then there's the dweeb factor. Look at how ridiculous I looked when I tried to take a photo of our video producer with the Nubia Alpha Smartwatch.
Such a smartwatch camera is probably much better suited for selfies or video calls.
It's a pretty little design, and now that we see so many cell phones tiny punches use cutouts for their selfie cameras (recently the Samsung Galaxy Note 10), I'm trying to think of a design like this could actually work in a future smartwatch. Whether Google actually succeeds is another question.
There were rumors that the company intended to launch a Pixel Clock last year, but Google later admitted it was not ready to produce its own watch. However, after Google has taken over part of Fossil's smartwatch technology, it may be time for the company to take a second look at how it can develop its own wearable technology.