A new Smart Ring patent from Apple describes it as a controller for an MR Headset that will also allow users to feel object textures and more
Apple's first smart ring patent came to light in October 2015 in a Patently Apple report titled "Apple introduces us to the Apple Ring in all its Glory." Since that time we've covered several other smart ring patents from Apple that you could review here in random order: 01, 02, 03, 04 and 05.
Today, on the last patent application day of 2022, the US Patent & Trademark Office published yet another smart ring patent. Future smart rings will primarily be used as a controller device for those wearing a Mixed Reality Headset. Secondarily, the rings could be used with future iPhones, iPads, AirPods, Macs and other devices.
Finger Devices With Adjustable Housing Structures
In Apple's patent background they noted that electronic devices such as computers can be controlled using computer mice and other input accessories. Input accessories can be used to control content that is displayed on a display and to take other actions. Some input accessories for computer systems may be cumbersome, uncomfortable, or unable to accommodate different users, such as those wearing a mixed reality headset.
Apple's invention covers electronic devices that are configured to be mounted on the body of a user may be used to gather user input and to provide a user with output. For example, electronic devices that are configured to be worn on one or more of a user's fingers, which are sometimes referred to as finger devices or finger-mounted devices, may be used to gather user input and to supply output.
A finger device may, as an example, include an inertial measurement unit with an accelerometer for gathering information on figure motions such as finger taps or free-space finger gestures, may include force sensors for gathering information on normal and shear forces in the finger device and the user's finger, may include a displacement sensor, force sensor, or other sensor for measuring movements of the sides of the finger as the finger contacts an external surface, and may include other sensors for gathering information on the interactions between the finger device (and the user's finger on which the device is mounted) and the surrounding environment. The finger device may include a haptic output device to provide the user's finger with haptic output and may include other output components.
One or more finger devices may gather user input from a user. The user may use finger devices in operating electronic devices. For example, a finger device may be used as a controller for a virtual reality or mixed reality device (e.g., head-mounted equipment such as glasses, goggles, a helmet, or other device with a display).
During operation, the finger devices may gather user input such as information on interactions between the finger device(s) and the surrounding environment (e.g., interactions between a user's fingers and the environment, including finger motions and other interactions associated with virtual content displayed for a user). The user input may be used in controlling visual output on the display. Corresponding haptic output may be provided to the user's fingers using the finger devices.
Haptic output may be used, for example, to provide the fingers of a user with a desired texture sensation as a user is touching a real object or as a user is touching a virtual object. Haptic output can also be used to create detents and other haptic effects.
Finger devices can be worn on any or all of a user's fingers (e.g., the index finger, the index finger and thumb, three of a user's fingers on one of the user's hands, some or all fingers on both hands, etc.). To enhance the sensitivity of a user's touch as the user interacts with surrounding objects, finger devices may have inverted U shapes or other configurations that allow the finger devices to be worn over the top and sides of a user's finger tips while leaving the user's finger pads exposed. This allows a user to touch objects with the finger pad portions of the user's fingers during use.
If desired, finger devices may be worn over knuckles on a user's finger, between knuckles, and/or on other portions of a user's finger. Finger devices may have a single segment (e.g., a single housing that fits over the end of a user's finger) or may have multiple segments (e.g., multiple housing portions that are flexibly coupled to each other so that they may be worn on respective segments of a user's finger). One or more finger devices may be worn at a time.
Users can use finger devices to interact with any suitable electronic equipment. For example, a user may use one or more finger devices to interact with a virtual reality or mixed reality system (e.g., a head-mounted device with a display), to supply input to a desktop computer, tablet computer, cellular telephone, watch, ear buds, or other accessory, or to interact with other electronic equipment.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative system with a finger device; FIG. 2 is a top view of an illustrative finger of a user on which a finger device has been placed; FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device on the finger of a user.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 above is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device with a hinge; Apple's patent FIG. 5 below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device with adjustable housing structures for accommodating a first finger size.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device with adjustable housing structures including an elastomeric band; FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device with adjustable housing structures including a scissor mechanism.
Apple's '626 patent application was filed in September 2022 and published today by USPTO.
- Paul Wang: Senior Manager, Product Design.
- Erin Bosch: Product Design Engineer
- Jeff Griffis: Product Design
- Alex Lehmann: Product Design Engineer – Finite Element
- Yuhao (Roy) Pan: Product Design Engineer.
- Stephen Dey: Director – Head of Product Design Engineering.