While most decent people spent the last few days playing with their new iPhones or travelling to Manchester, UK, to reject short-sighted ‘austerity’ politics, a patent for an Apple ring was published – so what is this iThing, and how might we use it?
What is it?
PatentlyApple tells us the ring incorporates “touch-sensitive surfaces, gesture sensors, and/or voice-input recognition, a camera, microphone and more.” The patent goes on to explain the ring is for those who need a, “more discreet, safer, more efficient, or more ergonomic way to interact with touch pads or touch screens.” The description also notes wireless power recharging and biometric sensors could comprise part of the device. I like to think of the ring as being part iPhone, part Magic Mouse and part iWatch.
So, this is useful, how?
I’ve taken a moment to imagine some potential usage scenarios for such a device. I must stress that the fact an Apple patent exists doesn’t mean the product will ever appear, though I’d argue speculation about this particular idea is relevant to wider discussion as to the potential future evolution of connected devices.
A ring equipped with biometric sensors and voice recognition could relatively easily incorporate Apple Pay support. I’m sure some people would quite like to pay for things just by pointing their finger. I can imagine some finger signals would be especially popular when paying unexpected parking fines.
Digital Touch lets you send sketches, taps or your heartbeat from your Apple Watch to another person. It is easy to imagine being able to share similar forms of intimate contact using the purported Apple ring. Some may even use them as everlastingly connected wedding rings.
Contacts and contracts
Biometric identity and authorization mean your ring could become a tool with which to sign contracts by tapping, share contacts in the same way – or use the device to open your front door, or switch on your car.
You can’t expect too much from such a small slice of display space. Notifications would be simple – directional arrows to get to where you’re going, weather temperature, the name of an incoming caller, appointment or VIP message alerts.
Keyboard and mouse
One use described in the patent sees the ring “detecting handwriting of the user using a motion sensor electrically connected to a computer processor and transmitting the detected handwriting” to another device – so you could take meeting notes by writing the words in thin air. It doesn’t end there – the ring suddenly becomes your Mac keyboard, mouse, or both. (Which makes sense as computing becomes ever more pervasive).
Remember HomeKit? The ring description describes a device with long battery life that can be used intermittently for tasks including controlling room lighting or devices at work or in a car.
Lost? In a spot of trouble? Think you’re having a heart attack? Now you’ve got a location-aware emergency button activated by voice, touch or gesture that’s capable of letting friends, family and emergency services know where you are.
So, will Apple ship an iRing? I asked Siri, but she didn’t have a smart answer to the question, however, it makes sense that people inside Apple’s R&D labs think hard about how putting iOS inside everyday devices may enhance our daily lives. If nothing else, this patent proves that Apple Watch was just the start – but that doesn’t mean the next Apple wearable will be a ring. Just that it could be.
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