News Feature | October 5, 2015

Apple Patent Filing Reveals Smart Ring Device

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

Image Courtesy of USPTO.

A patent filing by Apple reveals that it could be developing a ring-like wearable laden with optical, tactile, and biometric sensors, as well as accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, microphones, and a touchscreen interface. The functionality of said device will be similar to the Apple Watch, but in a smaller form.

The abstract for a patent application filed by Apple and published recently by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — entitled "Devices and Methods for a Ring Computing Device" — states, “A user controls an external electronic device with a finger-ring-mounted touchscreen that includes a computer processor, wireless transceiver, and rechargeable power source; the ring is worn on a first finger receives an input from a second finger, selects one of a plurality of touch events associated with the input, and wirelessly transmits a command associated with the touch event to the external electronic device.” 

According to the document, the ring computing device will have near-field communication (NFC), radio-frequency (RF) identification scanners, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities to connect with other external electronic devices. Two users each wearing a ring device will be able to exchange "information, messages or money" just by shaking hands.

The ring's shell and segments could be made of plastic or metal — such as gold, silver, or platinum — or a stretchable material like silicone, the filing states.

Many features of the smart ring device as described in the document are notably similar to those found in Apple Watch. According to Apple Insider, these features include heart rate monitoring and inductive charging, as well as "Hey Siri" voice commands, Force Touch, and the Taptic Engine, technologies found in recent iPhones and MacBooks. The user reportedly will interact with the device through "touch pads or touch screens measuring one to five centimeters on the diagonal" but also through a mix of "multitouch, voice and gesture input." The smart ring will be able to control iPhones and Apple TV sets.

A former analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, Brian White, claimed in 2013 that Apple was working on a device he called the iRing, which had characteristics similar to those later featured in the Apple Watch. The iRing was supposedly an accessory for the rumored iTV, which did not materialize commercially, according to BGR.

“We believe Apple will release a miniature device called ‘iRing’ that will be placed on a user’s finger and act as a navigation pointer for ‘iTV,’ enhancing the motion detection experience and negating some of the functionality found in a remote,” White stated in a note to clients back then, BGR reports.

Like the iTV and other rumored devices from Apple, the ring computing device described in the USPTO application may not necessarily translate to an actual product because, as The Telegraph notes, Apple is "among many tech companies who file patents in order to prevent rivals licensing certain features or inventions."