Apple has won a major smart ring patent designed to control companion device UI's, speed scroll documents, use in-air gestures with Macs+
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to a future smart ring input device with pressure-sensitive input mechanisms to initiate an operation like choosing an icon on the Apple TV interface or interface of other devices such as Macs, iPhone, iPad, VR gloves or control aspects of smart home devices.
Apple's granted patent covers a ring input device, and more particularly to pressure-sensitive input mechanisms within the ring input device that detect pressure to initiate an operation. Because finger rings are often small and routinely worn, electronic finger rings can be employed as unobtrusive communication devices that are readily available to communicate wirelessly with other devices capable of receiving those communications.
Ring input devices according to examples of the disclosure can detect press inputs on its band to generate inputs that can then be wirelessly communicated to companion devices.
Some examples of in the patent are directed to pressure-sensitive input mechanisms (e.g., buttons) within the ring input device that detect pressure to initiate an operation.
Other examples of the disclosure are directed to a conductive outer band on the ring input device that can detect a touch to initiate an operation. Still other examples of the disclosure are directed to modulating the rotational friction of a rotating outer band on the ring input device to improve the user experience. Still other examples of the disclosure are directed to detecting the rotational position of the rotating outer band or detecting the position/orientation of the ring input device to provide additional input capabilities.
Although ring input devices may be primarily described and illustrated herein as electronic finger rings for convenience of explanation, it should be understood that the examples of the disclosure are not so limited, but also include ring input devices that are worn as part of a necklace, hoop earrings, electronic bracelet bands that are worn around the wrist, electronic toe rings, and the like.
Apple's patent FIGS. 1A-1B below illustrate different configurations of a ring input device; FIG. 14A is a system block diagram of an electronic jewel system of a ring input device including a scroll ball and a touch sensor; FIG. 14B is a symbolic perspective view of a ring input device including an electronic jewel system with a scroll ball and a touch sensor.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 below is a system block diagram of a ring input device; FIG. 4A is a symbolic side view of two portions of a stationary inner band and a rotating outer band in concentric alignment; FIG. 5B is a symbolic side view of a portion of a stationary inner band and a rotating outer band with an electromagnetic rotational resistance generator having a movable brake.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A above is a symbolic end view of a stationary inner band, a rotating outer band, a guard rail and a variable resistance generator configured for axial resistance; FIG. 6B is a symbolic end view of a stationary inner band, a rotating outer band, a guard rail and an electromagnetic resistance generator configured for axial electromagnetic force.
Apple's patent FIG. 9B is a symbolic view of a user interface with icons displayed on the touchscreen of a companion device.
Apple's patent FIG. 12B above is a perspective view of a portion of a band mechanism showing a leaf spring sliding contact on a stationary inner band.
Rotational resistance can be increased or decreased depending on whether the item being manipulated should be changed slowly (e.g., the volume of a companion device) or quickly (e.g., scrolling through a lengthy document).
In addition to rotating the outer ring band to initiate or perform operations, it can also determine positional information such as the orientation and movement of the ring input device in free space which can provide a number of advantages. For example, a wearer of ring can move the ring around in free space to generate rotational or orientation signals, or perform gestures such as hand swipes or waving that can trigger the wireless transmission of commands to a companion device. In one particular example, the orientation and movement of the ring input device from one position to another can be used to move a cursor on a user interface or a 3D object being displayed.
Variations in the activation area of a dome switch (and therefore the activation area of a button within the band mechanism of a ring input device) can provide a number of advantages. For example, a wide activation area can allow a user to activate a button without having to precisely know the location of that button within the rotating outer band. This can be especially useful when the user wants to press a button but is not looking at the ring. On the other hand, a narrow activation area can enable multiple buttons to be placed within the band mechanism, with each button capable of being activated independently. Narrow activation areas can also reduce inadvertent button presses.
Even in the absence of rotation, one or more detected touches or taps on outer band 1106 can initiate operations, such as bringing up a user interface, or “peeking” to temporarily view content. A touch-and-hold input, or a touch-and-rotate input (as opposed to a swipe-to-rotate input), can also be detected to perform or initiate other operations. It should be understood that the preceding description of uses is non-limiting and merely illustrative, and that detecting touches on rotating outer band 1106 is contemplated for other purposes as well.