Apple has patented a smart ring, capable of registering user actions in augmented or virtual reality environments such as touching menus.
By now, it seems clear that Apple will launch an augmented reality device in some countries, probably in 2022. The leaks are too numerous and detailed to be dismissed as a mere possibility.
Apple’s moves point to the development of glasses, the Apple Glass, which will possibly mix virtual reality and augmented reality in what is known as ‘mixed reality, showing three-dimensional elements in “real life”. But that would not be the only device.
Whenever we talk about these types of advances, we always focus on the glasses, but there is another part that is even more important: The control interface. The best virtual reality devices are the ones that come with intuitive controllers, and that will also be true with Apple’s project.
Apple Ring detailed in a patent
Now, Patently Apple has revealed that Apple has filed a new patent with which it could solve the control problem in virtual and augmented reality: A smart ring, like Oura’s but focused on motion sensing.
Specifically, the patent deals with a gesture-based command input system, including wearable or hand-controlled devices. In the document, Apple engineers describe a concept based on a variety of handheld devices, such as a stylus that allows us to write in the air.
Examples of the use of this technology include a smart ring, which would have a small processor and sensors capable of registering our movements and translating them into commands for another device.
Apple relies in this case on the use of laser-based pressure sensors. Instead of detecting the touch directly on the surface of the ring, this system launches laser beams that bounce off the object to be detected and are detected back. It is a concept similar to LiDAR systems such as those of the iPhone 12 Pro, but in this case, it would not serve to record our environment, but the movements of our hands.
With only two sensors, the ring would be able to register motion in a two-dimensional plane, while with three sensors it could detect motion in three dimensions. It also contemplates the use of two rings at the same time to gain more information.
Apple Ring will have augmented reality control
In effect, the ring would be able to record the gestures we make with our fingers and hand, and these would be ‘translated’ to a device such as Apple Glass and the application we were using. Also, it could be used in conjunction with an Apple Pencil or similar device, as some of the patent images show.
Recording the movement of the fingers or hand across space would be especially useful for developing applications that allow us to write or draw in the air, for example. We could also control the Apple Glass interface using gestures, moving the fingers or hand in the air to move windows or objects.
Also, the patent indicates that the ring could have secondary functions, such as vibration to indicate to the user that he is ‘touching’ elements of the interface and thus facilitate the use.
As always when we talk about patents, it is possible that this ring will not become a reality and is only an internal Apple development, but what is clear is that the company is working hard on augmented reality.