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Could Apple products get a smart ring to control objects with hand gestures?

Apple has filed a patent for a smart ring able to identify gestures and 'initiate an operation' based on these hand movements. How will it affect Vision Pro?
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Jason Hiner

The wearable device on patent US-20230251711-A1 filed by Apple.


Apple just filed a patent for a smart ring capable of detecting skin-to-skin contact and finger movements to control other devices, potentially including TVs, iPads, Macs, and iPhones. And of course, we have to wonder how this could impact Apple Vision Pro, the company's augmented reality headset coming in 2024.

There are several smart rings on the market used to track fitness and health, like the Oura Ring, but this smart ring patent from Apple is geared towards interacting with other devices. The wearer would make hand gestures to perform actions on peripheral devices, like moving a cursor, changing settings, making and answering calls, selecting and opening files, and more. 

According to the patent filed on August 10, the device would include "drive circuitry, sense circuitry, and processing circuitry" and could entail the user wearing more than one ring at a time. With this document, Apple describes a wearable device for detecting gestures on one hand moving on its own or interacting with another, wearing one or two rings on just one hand, or one ring on each hand. 


The patent number US-20230251711-A1 includes these diagrams showcasing the use of the device on one hand, with both hands, and one device on each hand.


Among the graphics included in the document, there are depictions of hands wearing the ring and pinching, tapping, sliding a finger on a palm, pointing, and making other hand movements to control devices. 

Also: Apple releases VisionOS SDK, developers can apply for Vision Pro hardware kit

The patent states the smart ring can sense at 5 megasamples per second (MS/s), or 5 MHz, a speed commonly used in high-speed data acquisition systems (DAQ). These DAQ systems include sensors and transducers commonly used to measure and record data like electrical measurements, temperature, acceleration, vibration, and more. 

To prevent the smart ring from inadvertently translating incidental or minor movements into actions, more sensors could be added to streamline performance and exclude external factors, like cameras and moisture, optical, and force sensors.

In true Apple fashion, the smart ring could also be made capable of providing haptic feedback with a haptic generator. 

This smart ring technology differs from the Apple Vision Pro experience, which leverages a set of cameras and sensors to track eye and finger movements when the user makes in-air gestures. It's unclear whether this ring technology could integrate and augment the user interface in the Vision Pro.

Also: New Apple patent suggests you'll wear Vision Pro headset at NFL games

When Apple announced the Apple Vision Pro after many rumors of working on a VR/AR headset, it became evident that the tech giant focused more on an immersive experience of the Apple ecosystem through augmented reality rather than a virtual reality experience. With this latest patent, that futuristic impression appears to be a theme with Apple. 

Apple hasn't confirmed talks of a smart ring capable of performing these actions and the fact that the patent was just filed is an indication the development process could still be in its infancy. So there's no word on when this device will be launched, if at all. 

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