Why Apple Wants to Scan Your Veins

  • A June 30 Apple patent points to a “vein scanning device” that could one day detect gestures in the Apple Watch.
  • AppleInsider first spotted the patent, which discusses using infrared sensors to map out the veins in the hand to understand the movements of the palm and digits.
  • Apple might be using this tech for increased accessibility, or maybe to integrate a virtual reality experience with the iPhone.

Whether you’re handling raw meat, changing your oil, or in the grocery store checkout line and you haven’t hit the hand sanitizer yet, there are some situations in which you don’t want to touch your Apple Watch. And while Siri can help with that—all you have to do is raise the device to your mouth to trigger the voice assistant—Apple is also apparently working on another option for touchless commands: sensors that measure your veins.

In a June 30 patent, which AppleInsider first spotted, inventor Michael R. Brennan, a machine learning software engineer at Apple, describes a system to “automatically [determine] a user’s gesture and/or finger positions based on one or more properties of the user’s veins.”

The idea is to use an array of sensors, including an infrared camera, to capture images of the user’s hand to sort of diagram the veins’ positioning within a user’s hand. The device could then covert those images to a digital map that recognizes when a person makes different hand or finger movements, based on the changes in the veins.

Depending on those hand gestures, the device in question—the patent mentions a “wristwatch-like device”—can perform specific commands. So it sounds like you could one day raise your pointer finger to open an exercise app, for example, or perhaps ball up your hand into a fist to stop audio.