Today the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of their next wearable computers in the form of a ring that incorporates touch-sensitive surfaces, gesture sensors, and/or voice-input recognition, a camera, microphone and more. Apple ring could be used with a smart TV, according to Apple, be wirelessly charged in your car wireless via a smart steering wheel and much more.
Apple's Patent Background
The use of touch-sensitive surfaces as input devices for computers and other electronic computing devices has increased significantly in recent years. Exemplary touch-sensitive surfaces include touchpads and touch-screen displays. Such surfaces are widely used to manipulate user interface objects on a display.
Use of existing touchpads and touch-screen displays, however, may be cumbersome, inconvenient, or inefficient for certain tasks and applications. A user's hands may be preoccupied with another task, for example, or the user's hands and/or arms may become fatigued after holding the device in a viewing position for extended periods of time. The light emitted by a touchscreen may be inappropriate in certain social environments or even dangerous if it gives away the position of a threatened user. Furthermore, switching back-and-forth between different input modes, such as a keyboard and mouse, may be inefficient. A need therefore exists for a more discreet, safer, more efficient, or more ergonomic way to interact with touch pads or touch screens.
Introducing Apple Ring
Apple's invention describes a new wearable computer in the form of a ring with touch-sensitive surfaces, gesture sensors, and/or voice-input recognition, a camera, microphone and more.
Apple explains that there's a need for electronic devices with faster, more efficient methods and interfaces for interacting and/or controlling external electronic devices. Such methods and interfaces optionally complement or replace conventional methods for interaction. Such methods and interfaces reduce the cognitive burden on a user and produce a more efficient human-machine interface. With respect to battery-operated devices, such methods and interfaces conserve power and increase the time between battery charges.
In some implementations, a wearable ring device includes an annular member defining an aperture therethrough that is sized for receipt therein of a first finger of a user, a computer processor housed in the annular member, a touchscreen electrically connected to the computer processor and disposed at least partially at an outer peripheral surface of the annular member, wherein the touchscreen is configured to receive input from a second finger of the user, a wireless transceiver electrically connected to the computer processor and configured to communicate with at least one external electronic device, and a rechargeable power source for supplying power to the touchscreen, wireless transceiver, and computer processor.
In some embodiments, the wearable ring device further includes a microphone electrically connected to the computer processor for recognizing a voice command of the user; the microphone is configured to activate to in response to a command by the user. In some embodiments, the wearable ring device further includes a haptic actuator for identifying recognition of the command to the user and a second haptic actuator, wherein the haptic actuator and second haptic actuator are configured for conveying directional information to the user.
In some embodiments, the wearable ring device further includes a dial control for receiving input from the user, a wireless power receiver circuit for recharging the power source from a wireless power source, and/or a sensor for sensing a writing motion of the user, wherein the wireless transceiver transmits information to the at least one external electronic device related to characters written by the user.
In some embodiments, the wearable ring device further includes a biometric sensor for sensing biometric information of the user and/or a near-field-communication transmitter for transmitting data related to the user.
In some implementations, a method for controlling a remote electronic device using a finger-ring-mounted touchscreen includes receiving, on a touchscreen electrically connected to a computer processor and disposed at least partially at an outer peripheral surface of a ring disposed on a first finger of a user, input from a second finger of the user, selecting, using the computer processor, one of a plurality of touch events associated with the input, and wirelessly transmitting a command associated with the touch event to at least one external electronic device. In some embodiments, the method further includes notifying the user of transmission of the command by issuing haptic feedback to the first finger of the user; selecting the one of the plurality of touch events may include recognizing a gesture made by the user that is associated with the command.
In some embodiments, the external electronic device is a second finger-ring-mounted and the transmitted command causes the second finger-ring-mounted to issue feedback corresponding to a message of the user to a second user; the user may associate the input with the feedback.
In some embodiments, the method further includes receiving, using a microphone electrically connected to the computer processor, a voice input of the user, and transmitting the voice input to the at least one external electronic device. In some embodiments, the method further includes activating the microphone in response to a command from the user and/or establishing a wireless link with the at least one external electronic device in response to a gesture by the user; the gesture may include pointing at the external electronic device with the first finger.
In some embodiments, the method further includes detecting handwriting of the user using a motion sensor electrically connected to a computer processor and transmitting the detected handwriting to the at least one external electronic device; the input may be a character drawn by the user on the finger-ring-mounted touchscreen. The at least one external electronic device may further receive commands from at least one other finger-ring-mounted touchscreen.
In some embodiments, a state of the external electronic device is changed and/or information is transmitted to the external electronic device by bringing a near-field communication device electrically connected to the computer processor into proximity therewith.
In some implementations, a method for displaying information using a ring computing device worn on a first finger of a user includes receiving, using a wireless transceiver electrically connected to a computer processor housed in the ring computing device, information transmitted from at least one external electronic device, and displaying information on a touchscreen electrically connected to the computer processor and disposed at least partially at an outer peripheral surface of the ring computing device.
In some embodiments, the method further includes activating a haptic actuator based on the received information; the received information may include a character drawn by a second user of a second ring computing device, and activating the haptic actuator may include a plurality of pulses encoding the received information.
In some embodiments, the method further includes receiving input from a second finger of the user on the touchscreen, selecting, using the computer processor, one of a plurality of touch events associated with the input; and wirelessly transmitting a command associated with the touch event to at least one external electronic device. In some embodiments, a state of the external electronic device is changed and/or information is transmitted to the external electronic device by bringing a near-field communication device electrically connected to the computer processor into proximity therewith.
The above deficiencies and other problems associated with user interfaces for electronic devices with touch-sensitive surfaces are reduced or eliminated by the disclosed devices.
In some embodiments, the device is a ring computing device. In some embodiments, the device includes a touchpad. In some embodiments, the device includes a touch-sensitive display (also known as a "touch screen" or "touch-screen display").
In some embodiments, the device includes, one or more processors, memory and one or more modules, programs or sets of instructions stored in the memory for performing multiple functions including generating a graphical user interface (GUI). In some embodiments, the user interacts with the GUI primarily through finger contacts and/or gestures on the touch-sensitive surface or gestures captured by sensors disposed in or on the device.
In some embodiments, the functions optionally include cursor control, video playback control, volume control, text capture, text entry, motion capture, or audio or video selection. Executable instructions for performing these functions are, optionally, included in a non-transitory computer readable storage medium or other computer program product configured for execution by one or more processors.
Thus, a ring computing device with a display, touch-sensitive surface and/or one or more sensors to detect the intensity of a contact with the touch-sensitive surface are provided with faster, more efficient methods and interfaces for controlling external electronic devices, thereby increasing the effectiveness, efficiency, and user satisfaction with such devices.
For example, the ring computing device is more portable than a mouse, doesn't require a computer, doesn't require eye contact with the touch screen, allows the user to not be tied to a computer, cellular phone, or tablet to certain control electronic devices (e.g., televisions), reduces the inefficiencies of mode switching by not requiring a user to move his or her hand off a keyboard to move a mouse or touchpad, and is smaller, more portable, and less obtrusive than existing devices.
The ring computing device can be operated using a single hand; the ring does not need to be put aside when, for example, the user needs to hold another object.
The ring computing device can be carried unobtrusively for periods of time by the user and used when the user requires (to, for example, control light of a room as the user enters the room or to control devices at work or in a car).
The ring computing device can also receive information from external devices in the form of messages or images on a touchscreen, pulses or vibrations of haptic actuators, and sound. Such methods and interfaces may complement or replace conventional methods for controlling external electronic devices or to receive and reply to information from external electronic devices, including other ring computing devices.
And lastly, Apple notes that "In some embodiments, the ring computing device includes a near-field communication (NFC) initiator (i.e., an active scanner) and/or target (i.e., a passive tag); other types of similar systems, such as radio-frequency identification scanners and/or readers, as well as two-way systems such as Bluetooth Wi-Fi, etc. are within the scope of the present invention." Further, Apple notes that " United States Patent Application: 0150277559FurIn other embodiments, the user may unlock an NFC-reader-enabled door, keycard scanner, or automobile or turn on a light, television, or stereo.
Apple Ring Patent Figures
Steering Wheel Wireless Charger
In one embodiments illustrated below, the wireless power source is incorporated or integrated into an object or item upon which the user would place his or her hands on, or hold, for performing some other task, such as the steering wheel of a car, a computer mouse, a glove, etc. FIG. 15 illustrates a system #1500 that includes an automobile steering wheel #1502 that includes a wireless power broadcasting unit #1504; when the user's hand is used to operate the steering wheel, the unit #1504 broadcasts power to the ring #1508 and thereby charges the battery within.
Standard Charging Unit
Apple Ring Controller of External Displays
Apple credits Marcos Vescovi and veteran Marcel van Os as the inventors of patent application 20150277559 which was originally filed in Q2 2015 with references made to Q2 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Reminder: This isn't a design patent, so the graphics don't reflect what Apple intends to ever release. This is a utility patent that describes the Apple Ring functionality and purpose.
Also note: Patently Apple has updated its 'Apple Watch' archive to now represent 'Apple Watch + Other Wearables' where we've archived this current report and where we'll archive future wearable computer reports.
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