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An Apple Patent describes a smart ring that could be used with Macs, Apple TV box, iPad, iPhone, AR Glasses & more

1 x Cover Apple Ring patent

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to using single and multiple smart rings that controls aspects of a user interface. With Apple Vision Pro using eye tracking and cameras to monitor a user's finger for in-air gestures to control visionOS, like a mouse does with a Mac, the ring patent has a clear alternative purpose to work with other devices like Apple TV (box), Macs and more.

Apple notes that the input of a skin-to-skin contact/gesture input from a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) can be used by computer programs to perform actions. The actions can include, but are not limited to, moving an object such as a cursor or pointer, scrolling or panning, adjusting control settings, opening a file or document, viewing a menu, making a selection, executing instructions, operating a peripheral device connected to the host device, answering a telephone call, placing a telephone call, terminating a telephone call, changing the volume or audio settings, storing information related to telephone communications such as addresses, frequently dialed numbers, received calls, missed calls, logging onto a computer or a computer network, permitting authorized individuals access to restricted areas of the computer or computer network, loading a user profile associated with a user's preferred arrangement of a desktop computer, permitting access to web content, launching a particular program, encrypting or decoding a message, and/or the like.

In some examples, the stimulation signal can be in the range of 3.3V, which can be advantageously provided directly from some microcontrollers without the need for level shifters. In some examples, sense circuitry can be separate from the controller and include an instrumentation amplifier that can perform differential sensing across two inputs, each coupled to a different sense electrode.

In some examples, sensing can be performed at about 5 megasamples per second (MS/s). The controller can also be communicatively coupled to IMU to process signals from the  inertial measurement unit (IMU) to determine parameters such as the angular rate, orientation, position, and velocity of the ring. In some examples, the controller can be communicatively coupled to a haptics generator to initiate haptic feedback.

The controller can also be communicatively coupled to wireless transmitter or transceiver to wirelessly send and receive data and other information. In some examples, the wireless transmitter or transceiver can communicate wirelessly with desktop, laptop and tablet computing devices, smartphones, smart home control and entertainment devices, headphones, AirPods and HMDs like smartglasses.

Additionally or alternatively to requiring a threshold amount of movement to identify a movement gesture, in some examples, information from another sensor can be used to exclude these external causes. For example, camera(s) or other optical sensor(s), a force sensor or moisture sensor can be used to exclude other causes of the change in the amplitude of the finger.

For example, camera(s)/optical sensor(s) can be used to exclude the change in number of fingers or the orientation or force of the finger. A force sensor can be used to exclude the change in applied force. A moisture sensor can be used to exclude a change in moisture.

Apple's patent FIGS. 7A-7B below illustrate an example system for detection of a skin-to-skin gesture.

2 Apple patent for smart rings

Apple's patent FIG. 10 above illustrates a wearable device in the form of a ring; FIG. 11 is a system block diagram of a wearable device: FIGS. 12A to 16C illustrate the various finger gestures that could be made with the rings. Patently Apple has made notes above the figures below, with details reflecting the patent descriptions.

3 Apple patent figs for ring device

For more details, review Apple's patent application number 20230251711 that was published by the U.S. Patent Office earlier today. This morning Patently Apple posted another patent report titled "Apple invents an In-Air Hand Gesturing system for Macs & Apple TV that allows users to interact & control virtual objects & Apple TV content." Between the two patents, it's clear that Apple is thinking of news ways to interact with Apple TV beyond the remote control, mice and trackpad.

Side Note: Patently Apple posted a report in January titled "A new Samsung Patent shows more of their work on a Future Smart Ring as a controller for an HMD, Smart TV, PC and more." A few of Samsung's patent figures are presented below.

4 Samsung ring patent figs

On July 19, S. Korea tech site, The Elec, posted a report titled "Samsung starts development of ‘Galaxy Ring’ and then on July 28, The Elec posted a follow-up report titled "Samsung Electronics to decide whether to mass-produce the Galaxy Ring in August at the earliest." That's quite the wild swing from starting development and then leaping to mass production in a matter of weeks.

Yet suffice to say that Samsung always tries to get ahead of Apple, and they're likely to once again get the leap on Apple, even though that applications may be completely different.

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