February 21, 2013

It’s no longer a secret that Apple is working on a watch to expand its empire of i-branded items, potentially changing the way we think about wristwear much as they did phones, personal computers, etc. (The other possibility: Everyone in the target audience makes a face and says, “My phone already tells the time.”) More interesting, though, than the idea of how Apple could complement the typical time-telling function of the watch—say, by including a mini-computer in the face so that we might have another way to check our emails—is the technology they could bring back to make it fit our wrists: the slap bracelet.

You remember the slap bracelet, right? Those ubiquitous multi-colored ’90s gadget you’d affix to your wrist by slapping them, a gimmick that rarely got old. Today, Apple filed a patent for a “bi-stable spring with flexible display” that tech industry watchers think is related to the iWatch, which name-checks the slap bracelet and its function. From the patent, via Quartz:

Bi-stable springs have two equilibrium positions. This allows a device with a bi-stable spring to assume two distinct configurations. The most recent widespread use of such a device was the slap bracelet, also called the slap wrap. The slap bracelet consists of layered flexible steel bands sealed within a fabric cover. Typical slap bracelets are roughly one inch in width by nine inches in length. In a first equilibrium position they can be flat. The second equilibrium is typically reached by slapping the flat embodiment across the wrist, at which point the bracelet curls around the wrist and stays relatively secure in a roughly circular position.

Theoretically, it would mean the end of all those pesky clasps and holes and buckles; now, you’d just be able to put on your watch by hitting it against your wrist, and uncurling it at the end of the day. Ingenious new innovation, or doomed-to-fail throwback? You decide. BuzzFeed is already working on a “17 Things You Loved About The Slap Bracelet,” a list that will accumulate 17.8 trillion views.

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