Apple Smart Ring could be in development at the Cupertino company as a wearable device that is capable of controlling another device with touch and pressure-sensitive controls on the ring’s surface, according to details from a recently-granted patent. The smart ring proposed in the company’s latest patent is also capable of providing haptic feedback for notifications. Apple has spent several years working on a smart wearable device that resembles a ring — it filed a patent application years ago for ring shaped controls for VR devices.
Published by the US Patent Office (USPTO) on Tuesday, the patent US 11733790 B2 (via AppleInsider) describes a “ring input device with pressure-sensitive input”. The patent application was filed in September 2021 and granted on August 22. The document lists Michael Beyhs, Richard Huizar, Filip Ilievski, Jean Lu, and Thayne Miller as the inventors of the device.
Apple describes electronic finger rings as “unobtrusive, everyday communication devices” that can talk to other compatible devices over a wireless connection, due to the fact that they are “routinely worn and are often small”. The patent also describes the use of rings worn as wrist bracelets, part of hoop earrings or a necklace, or even a toe ring.
The patent document illustrates the use of one such connected device that could wirelessly receive a notification from a smartphone and provide haptic feedback to the wearer’s finger. Users could then be able to respond to that feedback using the ring. The document also suggests this device could control a smartphone, headphones, computers, and tablets.
One of several diagrams in the patent document (figure 1A) illustrates a “rotating outer band” (106) and an electronic jewel system (110) on the outer band mechanism (102). The inner part of the ring comprises a stationary inner band (104) and contact pads (108) and the smart ring is expected to use these components in tandem to detect input.
It is worth noting that Apple has worked on multiple technologies for smaller wearable devices — including rings — over the past few years. Back in 2021, a USPTO patent application from the iPhone maker described a “self-mixing interferometry-based gesture input system including a wearable or handheld device” that could be used to control other Apple devices such as VR headsets.
Apple submits patent applications for a wide range of products, but not all of the company’s ideas are translated into consumer electronics. As with all devices described in patent applications, there’s no indication whether Apple will eventually launch a product that uses these technologies, or whether they will be refined and used in another product in the future.