Apple Invents an Advanced Ring System with Four Types of Functionality covering Cursor movement, Paint, Pencil & Trackpad Modes
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to an advanced smart ring system that could work with an iMac, MacBook, or iPad, especially an iPad Pro when connected to a Smart Keyboard. The ring works in four modes covering cursor movement, paint brush, pencil and trackpad modes.
Advanced Smart Ring System
Apple's patent relates to finger-wearable input assemblies and methods for using finger-wearable input assemblies (rings) for controlling an electronic device.
A cuboid or cylindrical housing of an assembly may define a hollow passageway in which one finger of a user's hand may be positioned for wearing the assembly, while other fingers of the hand may provide touch user inputs to various touch sensor input components provided on an exterior of the housing about the passageway.
For example, one or more electromechanical switches and one or more trackpads may be provided at different portions of a periphery extending about the hollow passageway of the assembly, and the different sensors may simultaneously detect different inputs from different fingers of the user, while the detected inputs may be used to generate control data operative to control a user interface of an electronic device that may be communicatively coupled (e.g., wirelessly) to the input assembly.
Any suitable motion sensor may also be provided by the input assembly to determine movement (e.g., translation and/or rotation) of the input assembly housing in three-dimensional space, and such movement may be used in combination with any combination of detected touch sensor inputs to control the electronic device user interface.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic view of an illustrative user input system including an electronic device (ring) and an electronic input assembly.
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Apple's patent FIG. 2A below is a right-side view of an exemplary electronic input assembly (ring) interacting with an exemplary electronic device (an iMac); FIG. 2D is a top view of the system of FIG. 2A; FIG. 2B is a front view of the system of FIG. 2A showing where the finger is pointing and directing image or pointer on screen.
Apple's patent FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate top and bottom right-side perspective of one style of finger device. The figures show that the ring could be recharged (wired or wirelessly); FIG. 6 is a flowchart of illustrative processes for using an input assembly (ring) to control an electronic device (iMac, MacBook +). FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate alternative ring device shapes.
Four Types of Ring Functionality
Apple notes that there are four distinct types of functionality built into the ring. Each of the four functionality types may involve a different set of possible user inputs to be detected, where each functionality type, when detected, may be operative to be processed to generate a different type of control data for controlling the electronic device in a different manner.
The first functionality type may include a default functionality type when the first input is toggled off, which may include being operative to generate a mouse cursor type of control data.
For example, motion sensor circuitry of the input assembly may be operative to detect any movement of the input assembly in three-dimensional space (e.g., direction, acceleration, deceleration, etc.), as may occur when a user moves in space its finger wearing the input assembly.
The second functionality type of operation 508c may include a paintbrush functionality type, which may include being operative to generate a paintbrush cursor type of control data (e.g., for controlling cursor #112c on screen #112s in a second manner as if the input assembly were a paintbrush input tool), where, for example, motion sensor circuitry of the input assembly may be operative to detect any movement of the input assembly in three-dimensional space.
The motion sensor circuitry data may control movement of a cursor, while a tap of the second input component may "adjust" the color of cursor's paintbrush at its current location, while a hold of the second input component may start a "painting" operation at the current location of the cursor and continue with movement of the cursor until the hold of the second input component ends.
The third functionality type of operation 508d may include a pencil functionality type, which may include being operative to generate a pencil cursor type of control data (e.g., for controlling cursor #112c on screen #112s in a third manner as if the input assembly were a pencil input tool
The motion sensor circuitry data may control movement of a cursor (e.g., direction along screen #112s to adjust position of cursor on screen and/or rotation about axis perpendicular to the screen to adjust angle of pencil tool to screen and/or distance from the screen to adjust size of the pencil tip), while a tap of the third input component may "adjust" the cursor between a pencil and an eraser at its current location, while a hold of the third input component may start a "drawing" or "erasing" operation at the current location of the cursor and continue with movement of the cursor until the hold of the third input component ends.
The fourth functionality type of operation 508e may include a trackpad functionality type, which may include being operative to generate a trackpad type of control data (e.g., for enabling movement of cursor 112c on screen 112s in a fourth manner according to detected movement along a trackpad input component and/or for enabling a drawing input according to detected input along a trackpad input component)), where, for example, at a current location of a cursor, a fourth one of the input components (e.g., a bottom trackpad input component 210d, 210d', 210d'', etc.) may be operative to detect any trackpad gesture event (e.g., tracing the segments of a character (e.g., a letter "A")) as may occur when a user interacts with that input component using a finger different than the finger wearing the input assembly (e.g., a right hand thumb TM when a right hand index finger IF is wearing the input assembly), while a second one of the input components (e.g., a right input component 210b, 210b', 210b'', etc.) may be operative to detect any tap event or any hold event as may occur when a user interacts with that input component using a finger different than the finger wearing the input assembly (e.g., a right hand middle finger MF when a right hand index finger IF is wearing the input assembly).
Apple's patent application 20210096660 was filed on Q1 2020 and published today by the U.S. Patent Office.
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.