Late last year, Apple patented a new unnamed device that the media took to calling the Apple Ring (it was either that or calling it iRing, we imagine). The device was essentially a smart ring that allowed users to interface with other devices, and potentially even replace the Apple Watch.
Now, a newly released patent with additional details has emerged, revealing that gestures will play a significant role in the ring’s ability to interface with other devices, where users can simply point at the device of choice to be able to control it, Darth Vader-style.
Say you want to raise the volume on your smart TV, or power up our iMac from a distance, or even unlock your front door from the kitchen – with the Apple Ring, this could be possible.
Here’s the techy, jargon-filled description by the patent:
“A user controls an external electronic device with wireless ring device; the ring is disposed on one or more fingers of a hand of the user, detects an input, and, in response: in accordance with a determination that a predefined hand gesture directed toward a first external electronic device was performed, using the ring device, prior to detecting the input, the ring device transmits instructions to change an output of the first external electronic device based on the input; and, in accordance with a determination that the predefined hand gesture directed toward a second external electronic device was performed, using the ring device, prior to detecting the input, the ring device transmits instructions to change an output of the second external electronic device based on the input.”
The patent gives some examples:
“The use of touch-sensitive surfaces as input devices for computers and other electronic computing devices has increased significantly in recent years. Use of existing touchpads and touch-screen displays, however, may be cumbersome, inconvenient, or inefficient for certain tasks and applications. A user’s hands may be preoccupied with another task, for example, or the user’s hands and/or arms may become fatigued after holding the device in a viewing position for extended periods of time.”
It even goes on to criticize the good old-fashioned keyboard and mouse.
“Furthermore, switching back-and-forth between different input modes, such as a keyboard and mouse, may be inefficient.”
Enter the Apple Ring: “A need therefore exists for a more discreet, safer, more efficient, or more ergonomic way to interact with touch pads or touch screens.”
While the novelty factor of such a device is certainly there, it’s true useability will determine whether this product sinks or swims in a sea of ever-more-compeititve consumer devices.
Accoridng to the description in the patent, the ring will have a touchscreen displaying some simple information, likely not too different from the UI of an Apple Watch.
Still, while this sounds exciting on paper, a lot can change along the journey from patent to retail shelves. So while it’s nice to fantasize about what it would be like to be able to control devices as if telepathically or through telekinesis, take this with a grain of salt for the meantime.
In general, the industry has been trying to find new ways to innovate wearables. For many, the concept of a smart watch is barely scratching the barrel, and as such, are looking for new ways to innovate the wearables market.
You can find some of these innovations here: Wearable tech has gone mainstream – Now, it needs to evolve