Apple Patent Reveals Smart Finger Devices that will be used to Control a Future Mixed Reality Headset
Earlier today Patently Apple posted a report titled “Apple Patent Reveals Finger Sensory Devices that will Work with a Future Headset and Designed to be Stored Together.” The patent claims of the first patent emphasized the power circuitry along with charging case. In part two, Apple’s second patent focuses more on the use of ultrasonic sensors on the finger device. While headsets like the Oculus uses the large Oculus Touch controllers for their VR headset as shown below, Apple appears to be placing a lot of emphasis on finger device controllers that could provide users with advanced haptics.
In Apple’s second patent about finger device accessories for a future mixed reality headset, they state that in some arrangements a finger device may include ultrasonic sensors. An ultrasonic sensor may have an ultrasonic signal emitter and a corresponding ultrasonic signal detector configured to detect the ultrasonic signals after passing through a user's finger. A two-dimensional ultrasonic sensor may capture ultrasonic images of a user's finger pad. Ultrasonic proximity sensors may be used to measure distances between finger devices and external surfaces. Optical sensors and other sensors may also be used in the finger devices.
Electronic devices that are configured to be mounted on the body of a user may be used to gather user input and to provide a user with output. For example, electronic devices that are configured to be worn on one or more of a user's fingers, which are sometimes referred to as finger devices or finger-mounted devices, may be used to gather user input and to supply output.
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.
One or more finger devices may gather user input from a user. The user may use finger devices in operating a virtual reality or mixed reality device (e.g., head-mounted equipment such as glasses, goggles, a helmet, or other device with a display).
During operation, the finger devices may gather user input such as 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). The user input may be used in controlling visual output on the display.
Corresponding haptic output may be provided to the user's fingers using the finger devices. 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.
Finger devices can be worn on any or all of a user's fingers (e.g., the index finger, the index finger and thumb, three of a user's fingers on one of the user's hands, some or all fingers on both hands, etc.).
To enhance the sensitivity of a user's touch as the user interacts with surrounding objects, finger devices may have inverted U shapes or other configurations that allow the finger devices to be worn over the top and sides of a user's finger tips while leaving the user's finger pads exposed. This allows a user to touch objects with the finger pad portions of the user's fingers during use.
Users can use the finger devices to interact with any suitable electronic equipment. For example, a user may use one or more finger devices to interact with a virtual reality or mixed reality system (e.g., a head-mounted device with a display), to supply input to a desktop computer, tablet computer, cellular telephone, watch, ear buds, or other accessory, or to interact with other electronic equipment.
Apple’s patent FIG. 4 below is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device; FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device with vertical slits that form vertically extending arms.
Apple’s patent FIG. 7 above is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device with recesses and sensors in the recesses; FIG. 18 is a perspective view of an illustrative two-dimensional ultrasonic sensor array for a two-dimensional ultrasonic imaging sensor.
Apple’s patent FIG. 14 below is a front view of an illustrative finger device with a downwardly directed ultrasonic sensor that is angled perpendicularly to a longitudinal axis of the finger device; FIG. 15 is a side view of an illustrative finger device with a forwardly directed ultrasonic sensor mounted in a housing extension and configured to emit ultrasonic signals in a direction parallel to a longitudinal axis of the finger device.
Apple’s patent FIG. 16 above is a side view of an illustrative finger device with a forwardly directed ultrasonic sensor mounted on an upper housing wall portion of the finger device.
Apple’s patent FIG. 17 below is a front view of a pair of finger devices with interacting components such as ultrasonic signal emitters and detectors; FIG. 20 is a front view of an illustrative finger device with optical sensors.
Apple’s patent FIG. 21 above is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device having a curved trailing edge and tapered curved arms; and lastly, FIG. 22 is a side view of an illustrative finger device with a curved trailing edge during use on a bent finger.
Apple's second patent application for finger devices titled “Sensors for Electronic Finger Devices,” that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office under number 20190310713 was originally filed back in Q3 2018.
Yesterday Patently Apple posted a report titled “Rumor Claims that Apple will introduce an Augmented Reality Headset-Styled Device in 2020.” Will Apple’s new finger devices be ready right out of the gate? Only time will tell.
A Few of the Inventors
Paul Wang: Architect, Product Design
Alex Lehmann: Product Design Engineer - Finite Element Analyst