Could Apple have another wearable device planned in addition to the Apple Watch? Possibly. The company has been granted another patent for an “Apple Ring.”
The patent — dubbed “devices, methods, and user interfaces for a wearable electronic ring computing device” — would allow the wearer to control an external electronic device (an iPad, Mac, or even a TV, perhaps) with a finger-ring-mounted touchscreen that includes a computer processor, wireless transceiver, and rechargeable power source.
Actually, Apple has a two-ring system in mind. One is worn on a first finger and receives an input from a second finger. The wearer could select from several touch events associated with the input with the command wirelessly transmitted to the external electronic device.
What’s the purpose of such a system? In the patent filing, Apple says that the use of existing touchpads and touch-screen displays can be “cumbersome, inconvenient, or inefficient for certain tasks and applications.” A user’s hands may be preoccupied with another task, for example, or the user’s hands and/or arms may become fatigued after holding the device in a viewing position for extended periods of time.
The light emitted by a touchscreen may be inappropriate in certain social environments or even dangerous if it gives away the position of a threatened user. What’s more, switching back-and-forth between different input modes, such as a keyboard and mouse, may be inefficient. Apple says there’s a need for a “more discreet, safer, more efficient, or more ergonomic way to interact with touch pads or touch screens.”
This isn’t the first talk of an Apple smart ring. In 2013 Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White predicted that Apple will introduce an Apple-branded HDTV (the “iTV”) with an accompanying “iRing,” a ring accessory that lets you control the set by pointing their finger. White said the “iRing” accessory will act as a “navigation pointer” for the television. It will also allow the TV set to enhance motion detection and replace some of the functionality found in a remote, he added.
Of course, the “iTV” never happened. But Apple could have plans for an Apple Ring.