Apple wins a patent for Vision Pro Finger Devices that will allow a user to feel different textures, motion, resistance and more
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to next generation finger devices/accessories to be mainly used with and HMD like Apple Vision Pro. Other devices that the finger devices will interact with include a TV (or Apple TV box), Macs and more. The patent also reveals various charging systems for the finger accessories.
While the Apple Vision Pro uses advanced eye tracking and cameras to pick up on a user's simple in-air finger gestures, acting as a form of in-air mouse, finger devices could bring a completely higher range of features and sensors.
More specifically, Apple notes that Finger devices could provide advanced haptics that could be used to provide the fingers of the user with textures, motion sensations, sensations of resistance and vibration, and/or other tactile sensations as the user interacts with computer-generated content and real-world content.
Apple’s invention covers a system that may include one or more finger-mounted devices such as finger devices with U-shaped housings configured to be mounted on a user's fingers while gathering sensor input and supplying haptic output.
The sensors may include force sensors, inertial measurement units, proximity sensors, touch sensors, and other sensors. Haptic output devices in the finger-mounted devices may provide vibrations and other haptic output to the fingers of a user as the user interacts with real-world objects and computer-generated virtual objects in virtual reality and mixed reality environments.
The finger devices may have power receiving circuitry configured to receive power from a power source. The power source may be incorporated into an electronic device such as a battery case, a head-mounted display, a wireless charging mat or stand, or other electronic equipment.
The power source may supply power through terminals that form ohmic contacts with mating terminals in the finger device or may transmit power wirelessly using capacitive coupling or inductive charging arrangements.
A finger device may have hinge structures that allow portions of the device to rotate relative to each other. This allows the finger device to be placed in a U-shaped configuration for normal use on a user's finger or a flattened configuration or other configuration in which the device is being provided with power from a power source.
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, 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. During operation, a user of a virtual reality or mixed reality device (e.g., head-mounted equipment such as glasses, goggles, a helmet, etc.) may gather 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) and may supply appropriate output such as haptic output.
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.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative system with a finger device. Finger devices, according to Apple, could work with an HMD (Apple Vision Pro, Smartglasses), a MacBook, an iMac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, a television, and more; 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. 8 below is a perspective view of an illustrative battery case with a hinged lid for storing and charging a finger device; FIG. 9 is a top view of an illustrative storage case for a set of three finger devices; FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an illustrative head-mounted device to which finger devices have been coupled for storage and charging; FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a portion of a device such as a head-mounted device that has a recess for receiving a finger device.
Apple’s patent FIG. 19 below is a rear perspective view of an illustrative cellular telephone battery case having a recess for receiving a finger device; FIG. 20 is a perspective view of an illustrative head-mounted device with a recess for receiving a finger device.
Lastly, Apple’s patent provides us with a sampling of the kinds of sensors that could be used in these future finger devices starting with force sensors (e.g., strain gauges, capacitive force sensors, resistive force sensors, etc.), audio sensors such as microphones, touch and/or proximity sensors such as capacitive sensors, optical sensors such as optical sensors that emit and detect light, ultrasonic sensors, and/or other touch sensors and/or proximity sensors, monochromatic and color ambient light sensors, image sensors, sensors for detecting position, orientation, and/or motion (e.g., accelerometers, magnetic sensors such as compass sensors, gyroscopes, and/or inertial measurement units that contain some or all of these sensors), muscle activity sensors (EMG) for detecting finger actions, radio-frequency sensors, depth sensors (e.g., structured light sensors and/or depth sensors based on stereo imaging devices), optical sensors such as self-mixing sensors and light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, humidity sensors, moisture sensors, and/or other sensors.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 11720174.