Apple Patent Reveals Finger Sensory Devices that will Work with a Future Headset and Designed to be Stored Together
In Q1 of this year Patently Apple posted two reports covering Apple’s initial work on Mixed Reality Headset accessories in the form finger sensory devices (01 & 02) in a couple of styles. Apple is also considering sensory gloves for headsets as well (01 & 02.). Today the U.S. Patent Office published two more detailed patent Applications from Apple. Our cover graphics shows the finger devices being able to be stored on the headset when not in use or while charging.
In Apple’s patent background they note that electronic devices such as computers can be controlled using computer mice and other input accessories. In virtual reality systems, force-feedback gloves can be used to control virtual objects. Cellular telephones may have touch screen displays and vibrators that are used to create haptic feedback in response to touch input.
Devices such as these may not be convenient for a user. For example, computer mice generally require flat surfaces for operation and are mostly used with desktop computers in fixed locations. Force-feedback gloves can be cumbersome and uncomfortable. Touch screen displays with haptic feedback only provide haptic output when a user is interacting with the displays.
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 in accordance to their invention; 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.
Apple's patent application that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q3 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.