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Apple patent reveals more details behind a Touch Sensitive Ring to work with in-home devices, TVs, Macs, Apple Watch, iPad & more

1 cover ring patent report

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a possible 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 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.

2 apple ring patent figs

Apple's patent FIG. 9B below  is a symbolic view of a user interface with icons displayed on the touchscreen of a companion device.

3 apple ring paten figures

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.

Apple's newly published patent is an update that includes 20 new patent claims as presented below:

  1. A ring input device capable of providing and controlling rotational input, comprising: a band mechanism having an outer band and an inner band, the outer band configured to rotate with respect to the inner band; a first variable resistance generator formed on one or both of the inner band and the outer band; and an electronic jewel system communicatively couplable to the band mechanism; wherein the electronic jewel system is configured for controlling the first variable resistance generator to modulate a rotational resistance of the outer band with respect to the inner band in accordance with an item being manipulated.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, the electronic jewel system further configured to modulate the rotational resistance to produce a feeling of detents in the rotating outer band.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, the electronic jewel system further configured for controlling the first variable resistance generator to prevent rotation of the outer band.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, the electronic jewel system further configured for controlling the first variable resistance generator to increase the rotational resistance of the outer band at a beginning or an end of a rotational input.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the first variable resistance generator is one of an electroactive polymer, a shape memory alloy, an air bladder, and magnetorheological fluid.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the item is a parameter.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the item is a user interface (UI).
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the first variable resistance generator is affixed to the outer band and applies the modulated rotational resistance against the inner band.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the inner band and outer band are arranged as concentric bands, the ring input device further comprising: a second variable resistance generator disposed between the inner band and the outer band and located on an opposite side of the ring input device in relation to the first variable resistance generator; wherein the electronic jewel system is further configured for controlling the first variable resistance generator and the second variable resistance generator to apply complementary opposing forces within the ring input device.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the inner band and outer band are arranged as eccentric bands.
  2. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the first variable resistance generator is an electromagnetic rotational resistance generator having an array of coils formed on the inner band and an array of magnetic poles formed on the outer band.
  1. The ring input device of claim 11, wherein the electromagnetic rotational resistance generator is affixed to a brake that applies frictional resistance to the outer band when magnetically influenced by the electromagnetic rotational resistance generator.
  1. The ring input device of claim 1, the inner band having a side rail for retaining the outer band and the outer band having a side wall adjacent to the side rail; wherein the first variable resistance generator is formed on the side rail of the inner band, and wherein the electronic jewel system is configured for controlling the first variable resistance generator to modulate the rotational resistance of the side rail of the inner band with respect to the side wall of the outer band.
  1. A method of controlling rotational input on a ring input device, comprising: providing a first variable resistance between an inner band and a rotating outer band of the ring input device; and controlling the first variable resistance to modulate a rotational resistance of the outer band with respect to the inner band in accordance with an item being manipulated.
  1. The method of claim 14, further comprising modulating the rotational resistance to produce a feeling of detents in the rotating outer band.
  1. The method of claim 14, further comprising modulating the rotational resistance to prevent rotation of the outer band.
  1. The method of claim 14, further comprising modulating the rotational resistance to increase the rotational resistance of the outer band at a beginning or an end of a rotational input.
  1. The method of claim 14, wherein the item is a parameter.
  1. The method of claim 14, wherein the item is a user interface (UI).
  1. The method of claim 1, wherein the first variable resistance is an electromagnetic rotational resistance.

 

To review the patent's full details, review patent application 20230359291. This is Apple's third patent ring related patent in the last month. The other two could be reviewed here: 01 and 02.

Apple could be at the early prototype phase due to Michael Bhyhs and Richard Huizar noted as inventors of this patent. Both are listed as Prototyping Engineers. Other inventors include:

  • Filip Ilievski: Technologist
  • Jean Lu: Engineering Manager (Imaging & Sensing Incubation)
  • Thayne Miller: Senior Engineering Manager, Touch & Sensing Hardware

 

10.51FX - Patent Application Bar

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