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Apple patents device that lets you control objects in VR with your fingers

Apple has patented a new finger device that utilizes sensors to allow users to control objects in the virtual space.

Usages of this "Apple Finger" could spillover outside the virtual space and into our homes, pushing gesture-based user input to new levels In previous years, Apple has acquired specialist VR and AR firms The augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) market amounted to a forecast of 18.8 billion US dollars in 2020 and is expected to expand drastically in the coming years

While there has been a lot of talk of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), significant obstacles still hinder them from mainstream adoption. For the longest time, these challenges have included things like the need for powerful machines (be it computers or game consoles), pricy hardware, and most commonly the limitations of the medium. It’s tough to find yourself involved in a VR experience when you have to operate unwieldy controllers to interact with the virtual space, from things like the HTC Vive to the regular PS4 Dualshock 4. 

Now, a report by CNET has revealed a new patent filed by Apple, one that could hold great implications for the medium.

“Apple has filed a patent application for small “finger devices” loaded with sensors that allow people to interact with objects in AR or VR,” the tech site reported. “The application was published Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office.”

(Image: US Patent and Trademark Office)

As per the patent’s abstract, the system in question will possibly include finger devices. 

“A touch sensor may be mounted in a finger device housing to gather input from an external object as the object moves along an exterior surface of the housing. Sensors such as force sensors, ultrasonic sensors, inertial measurement units, optical sensors, and other components may be used in gathering finger input from a user.”

The key phrase line, however, is this: “Finger input from a user may be used to manipulate virtual objects in a mixed reality or virtual reality environment while a haptic output device in a finger device provides associated haptic output.”

This would not only be limited to the application in VR, AR and mixed reality, however, but could carry further implications for gesture-controlled devices, like turning the lights in a room on or off, motioning for the AC to switch on or off, or even adjusting the volume on your HomePod, as CNET suggests. This is all conjecture at this point, but certainly very exciting for the market. If Apple does succeed in releasing an “Apple Finger” to the market, it could have the next iPad on its hands. 

The device fits with Apple’s plans for the industry, as the company filed a patent for a mixed reality headset last year combining augmented and virtual reality. They also previously acquired specialist AR startups including VRvana and Akonia, TelecomPaper reports

The field already holds lots of rivals. From Microsoft’s HoloLens to Facebook’s Oculus Rift, a lot of investor money is being poured into the R&D of virutal space. According to Statista, the augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) market amounted to a forecast of 18.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and is expected to expand drastically in the coming years.