Apple smart ring could offer Apple Watch functionality on a finger

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple is continuing to explore the possibility of creating a new wearable in the form of a ring, one that includes a finger-mounted touchscreen that could also be used to transmit commands to another nearby device wirelessly.

Amazon's Echo Loop, a recently-launched smart ring
Amazon's Echo Loop, a recently-launched smart ring


Apple is so far taking the lead in terms of wearable computing, with the Apple Watch dominating the smart watch marketplace and AirPods being one of the most popular audio accessories available today. While this is a great start for the iPhone maker in the field, the company isn't resting on its wearable device laurels just yet.

A patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Devices, methods, and user interfaces for a wearable electronic ring computing device," Apple outlines a ring that could be worn on a finger. Rather than just act as an input peripheral for another device, like a wearable wireless mouse, Apple's proposal offers what could be best described as a miniaturized Apple Watch in ring form.

The ring contains a processor, wireless transceiver, power supply, and a microphone. There would also be other sensors included within the ring to enable hand gestures to be detected and interpreted, along with a dial control perpendicular to the ring's circumference that could function like the Apple Watch's Digital Crown.

A simplified example of an Apple ring with display, buttons, and haptic feedback points
A simplified example of an Apple ring with display, buttons, and haptic feedback points


The ring could also include multiple haptic actuators for providing force feedback and "conveying directional information" to the user, motion sensitivity for "sensing a writing motion, biometric sensors for fitness tracking and security, and NFC communications. The wireless connectivity could also extend to transmitting identification information about the user to a secondary device, allowing it to unlock a Mac like an Apple Watch can be configured to do.

Among the gestures Apple defines include pointing at a separate device using the ring-wearing finger to prompt a wireless link, a swiping or flicking gesture to change selections in a menu, rotating the finger or device, and the jolt of a user touching or tapping a surface.

The ring can potentially share its angle of rotation to the other device by using multiple transmitters in different locations, with the other hardware able to triangulate each's position in 3D space. While this could help make for more accurate motion detection, knowing where two or three specific points of the ring exist can aid in knowing the exact angle of the ring or its motion including rotational movements.

Apple suggests the movement of the ring on a finger could influence other devices
Apple suggests the movement of the ring on a finger could influence other devices


A touchscreen is also mentioned, which could be used to input characters drawn by the user, again similar to one text input method offered by the Apple Watch.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, but while not all concepts illustrated by the company translate into finished products, they do at least indicate areas of interest for the iPhone maker's research and development efforts.

A ring-like device has cropped up before in patent filings, including a similarly-titled "Devices and methods for a ring computing device" that appeared in 2015. The patent application described a ring-based wearable device with a display that uses voice, motion, and touch input to control and interact with larger computing devices.

Considering the similarity with that patent application, as well as the existing work Apple has put into the Apple Watch that is mirrored in the filing, it seems like a logical progression for Apple to develop a smart ring or similar hardware. Not everyone wants to wear an Apple Watch, nor may they want to keep AirPods with potential health monitoring features in their ears all the time, making a ring seem like a sensible alternative.

Apple isn't the only one to be looking into using rings as a platform for computing among major tech companies. Amazon recently launched the Echo Loop, a smart ring containing two microphones activated with a button press and providing haptic feedback, one that also relies on a separate host device to perform processing and for data connections to power Alexa.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,452member
    Can’t wait for my Apple cranial implant so I can stop wearing my wearables.
    flyingdpbeowulfschmidtberndogh2pjony0
  • Reply 2 of 16
    NY1822NY1822 Posts: 621member
    I wonder if it can compete with Amazon's version 😂
  • Reply 3 of 16
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,738member
    I've wondered if there would be a market for a wristband that was pretty much an Apple Watch as far as all the fitness capability and sensors go, but lacked the display and the communications capability (except for Bluetooth) and would sync directly with the phone. Could be much smaller and waterproof.
  • Reply 4 of 16
    hodarhodar Posts: 337member
    Sorry, cannot "see" how a ring would be beneficial.  As we get older, our eyesight does not get sharper, and being able to read displays becomes more difficult.  Even a younger person will spend more time trying to read a ring, than they would glacing at a phone, or looking at a wrist watch.  Think we have distracted drivers who text; wait until they have to squint at a ring.

    And what would the ring give us, that we don't enjoy now?  My watch gives me a wide range of functions, all easily controlled by either a gesture, voice or a push button.  With a ring, the buttons would be much smaller, the gestures more delicate - the trade off just doesn't seem to justify the benefit.
  • Reply 5 of 16
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 396member
    hodar said:
    Sorry, cannot "see" how a ring would be beneficial.  As we get older, our eyesight does not get sharper, and being able to read displays becomes more difficult.  Even a younger person will spend more time trying to read a ring, than they would glacing at a phone, or looking at a wrist watch.  Think we have distracted drivers who text; wait until they have to squint at a ring.

    And what would the ring give us, that we don't enjoy now?  My watch gives me a wide range of functions, all easily controlled by either a gesture, voice or a push button.  With a ring, the buttons would be much smaller, the gestures more delicate - the trade off just doesn't seem to justify the benefit.
    I expect this ring to be another input mechanism for Apple's upcoming AR glasses.  Imagine wearing a pair of regular-looking glasses and asking Siri to show your to-do list.  It appears 'floating' in front of your eyes.  How to mark the one you just did 'complete'?  You could try to explain it to Siri, but it would be much easier if you could simply select it with that ring on your finger.

    Perhaps the "screen" in the patent is similar to the Touch Bar on Macs - to show what tapping/sliding/whatever on it will currently do (since it will be context dependent.)

    As AR glasses becomes one of the primary ways to see data (vs. iPhone screen or watch face), interacting with that data needs to be possible.
    StrangeDaysminicoffeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 16
    A company in Finland makes something similar. It’s called the Oura Ring. Tracks sleep, breathing, and a ton of other data. Lasts over a week on a single charge. Connects to the iPhone. 
    PShimiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    This device is inevitable. 
    minicoffee
  • Reply 8 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,030member
    hodar said:
    Sorry, cannot "see" how a ring would be beneficial.  As we get older, our eyesight does not get sharper, and being able to read displays becomes more difficult.  Even a younger person will spend more time trying to read a ring, than they would glacing at a phone, or looking at a wrist watch.  Think we have distracted drivers who text; wait until they have to squint at a ring.

    And what would the ring give us, that we don't enjoy now?  My watch gives me a wide range of functions, all easily controlled by either a gesture, voice or a push button.  With a ring, the buttons would be much smaller, the gestures more delicate - the trade off just doesn't seem to justify the benefit.
    This sounds like all the argument against the iPhone and Apple Watch before they were announced. Just replace the appropriate nouns. Sapporobabyrtrns details a solid potential use for such a device.
    edited October 2019 StrangeDaysmike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    hodarhodar Posts: 337member
    Soli said:
    hodar said:
    Sorry, cannot "see" how a ring would be beneficial.  As we get older, our eyesight does not get sharper, and being able to read displays becomes more difficult.  Even a younger person will spend more time trying to read a ring, than they would glacing at a phone, or looking at a wrist watch.  Think we have distracted drivers who text; wait until they have to squint at a ring.

    And what would the ring give us, that we don't enjoy now?  My watch gives me a wide range of functions, all easily controlled by either a gesture, voice or a push button.  With a ring, the buttons would be much smaller, the gestures more delicate - the trade off just doesn't seem to justify the benefit.
    This sounds like all the argument against the iPhone and Apple Watch before they were announced. Just replace the appropriate nouns. Sapporobabyrtrns details a solid potential use for such a device.
    If i am wrong, I am wrong.
    Wouldn't be the first time, won't be the last time.
    But; for the reasons I gave above - I think human factors/ergonomics will limit the usefulness of this device.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    hodar said:
    Soli said:
    hodar said:
    Sorry, cannot "see" how a ring would be beneficial.  As we get older, our eyesight does not get sharper, and being able to read displays becomes more difficult.  Even a younger person will spend more time trying to read a ring, than they would glacing at a phone, or looking at a wrist watch.  Think we have distracted drivers who text; wait until they have to squint at a ring.

    And what would the ring give us, that we don't enjoy now?  My watch gives me a wide range of functions, all easily controlled by either a gesture, voice or a push button.  With a ring, the buttons would be much smaller, the gestures more delicate - the trade off just doesn't seem to justify the benefit.
    This sounds like all the argument against the iPhone and Apple Watch before they were announced. Just replace the appropriate nouns. Sapporobabyrtrns details a solid potential use for such a device.
    If i am wrong, I am wrong.
    Wouldn't be the first time, won't be the last time.
    But; for the reasons I gave above - I think human factors/ergonomics will limit the usefulness of this device.
    You have to think outside the box.  What if the ring held a retina projector that projected the image directly on the retina in the eye?

    Check out this book by Daniel Suarez: "Change Agent" https://xp.apple.com/report/2/its_mail_sf?responseType=redirect&emailType=share_epubBook&lang=en_us&eventType=linkClick&redirectUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fbooks.apple.com%2Fus%2Fbook%2Fchange-agent%2Fid1137828201 

    It has a future where retina projectors are EVERYWHERE.  No need for a normal projector in a conference room - it has devices that finds/detects retinas and directly projects the image on the retina.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    hodar said:
    Sorry, cannot "see" how a ring would be beneficial.  As we get older, our eyesight does not get sharper, and being able to read displays becomes more difficult.  Even a younger person will spend more time trying to read a ring, than they would glacing at a phone, or looking at a wrist watch.  Think we have distracted drivers who text; wait until they have to squint at a ring.

    And what would the ring give us, that we don't enjoy now?  My watch gives me a wide range of functions, all easily controlled by either a gesture, voice or a push button.  With a ring, the buttons would be much smaller, the gestures more delicate - the trade off just doesn't seem to justify the benefit.
    A smart ring paired with AR Glasses will silence the critics.
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 12 of 16

    Tim had joked a couple of years back that he was really looking forward to the Ring!

  • Reply 13 of 16
    19831983 Posts: 1,224member
    Not everybody wants to wear a ring either...
  • Reply 14 of 16
    Not happening.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Maybe a digital touch by tongue tooth implant device.
    Remember I patented it first.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,254member
    Hand controllers for an Apple VR glasses wearable? These could track your hand movements and actions (like pinching to grab objects in 3d space) whilst leaving your hands free.
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