Patent application reveals the accessory that Apple Glass users might need to navigate the wearable

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Just yesterday we took a look at what could be the next big tech product, AR glasses or as some call them, smart glasses. We pointed out on Wednesday that smart rings could be included in the box with the device expected to be called Apple Glass; the accessory might be used to help the user navigate his or her way around the device’s operating system.

Apple seeks a patent for an expandable smart ring”

Added to several patent applications that Apple has filed for a smart ring is a new one titled “Expandable Ring Device.” The ring device mentioned in the patent application gathers data from a user through the use of components such as “force sensors, ultrasonic sensors, inertial measurement units, optical sensors, touch sensors” and more. The data collected by the ring might be used to operate another device, as we pointed out. Besides Apple Glass, the smart ring might help some consumers control their iPhone as Apple explained in a patent application filed last year.
However, the latest document released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) surely sounds like the ring is designed for Apple Glass. The system described in the filing mentions  “A system comprising: a ring device worn on a user’s finger, the ring device comprising: a housing, first communications circuitry configured to send data to external devices; and a head-mounted device comprising: a display configured to generate images, second communications circuitry configured to receive the data from the ring device, wherein the first and second communications circuitry comprise communications circuitry that supports bidirectional communication between the ring device and the head-mounted device, and control circuitry configured to adjust the displayed images based on the received data.”

To make its intentions for the smart ring clearer, Apple says, “The user may use ring 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 ring devices may gather user input such as information on interactions between the ring 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. During operation, haptic output may be provided to the user’s fingers using the ring devices. Haptic output may be used, for example, to provide the fingers of a user with vibrations for notifications, may be used to create detents as a user provides touch input to a touch sensor on the ring, and haptic feedback as the user interacts with external equipment (as examples).”

One feature of this smart ring is its ability to expand. Apple says that the patent covers “a ring device with an expandable portion… in which the expandable portion is retracted and the ring device is compact and can be operated in an expanded state in which the expandable portion is deployed and the ring device is enlarged.” Rotatable buttons and other input devices can be attached to the ring shaped housing of the accessory. The ring could form a capacitive touch sensor on its expandable part and Apple could use the data generated by the component to determine whether or not the user’s finger is in a bended position. Users could end up wearing multiple rings at the same time allowing them to expand the number of controls and the navigation that can be generated from their fingers

In most of the examples cited by the patent application, Apple is using communications circuitry in the ring to wirelessly send information to one or more electronic devices in order to control these devices. An inertial measurement unit with an accelerometer would be employed to recognize finger taps or finger gestures. Even the simple act of twisting the ring around a user’s finger could be used for navigation purposes. And the patent application suggests that the ring will generate haptic feedback; vibrations created could signal the user when he or she has received a notification.

Apple Glass could be launched as early as the first quarter of 2021.

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