IR­ing

Mac Format - - RATED -

As tech­nol­ogy ma­tures, it gets smarter and smaller. The iPhone 4 has the same pro­cess­ing power as a mid-80s su­per­com­puter, and the Ap­ple Watch is twice as pow­er­ful again. Could Ap­ple pos­si­bly pack that tech into some­thing that’s even smaller?

Ac­cord­ing to US patent ap­pli­ca­tion 20150277559, “De­vices and Meth­ods for a Ring Com­put­ing De­vice”, Ap­ple’s work­ing on a smart ring. As the ap­pli­ca­tion puts it, it’s a “fin­ger-ring-mounted touch­screen that in­cludes a com­puter pro­ces­sor, wire­less trans­ceiver, and recharge­able power source”.

If you think that sounds like a ring-sized Ap­ple Watch, you’d be right. The Ap­ple Ring would have a mi­cro­phone for voice in­put, hap­tic feed­back, in­duc­tive charg­ing, bio­met­ric sen­sors and the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with “at least one ex­ter­nal elec­tronic de­vice” such as a Mac or an iPhone. You’d con­trol the ring by tap­ping or swip­ing on its touch­screen, com­mu­ni­cate with nearby de­vices via NFC – for ex­am­ple to make a pay­ment – and it could re­spond to bio­met­ric sig­nals too. The patent also de­tails pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity that sounds a lot like Ap­ple’s Force Touch and 3D Touch tech­nolo­gies.

There are some key dif­fer­ences, though. The ring might be made with pre­cious met­als, but it might also be made from some­thing stretchy, like sil­i­cone. It might have an auto-siz­ing fea­ture, where it ad­justs the fit based on the size of your fin­ger. And it might even have a cam­era.

Why a ring? There are lots of ap­pli­ca­tions. You could use it to con­trol the myth­i­cal Ap­ple TV set, or to con­trol on-screen ac­tion in games. You could use it to con­trol your au­to­mated home, or to ver­ify your ID to other de­vices. The patent de­scribes how you could trans­fer money to some­body sim­ply by shak­ing their hand. And you could use it to con­trol CarPlay, or the var­i­ous sys­tems in a fu­ture Ap­ple ve­hi­cle.

Will Ap­ple build it? Not yet. It had enough trou­ble cram­ming all of the Watch tech­nol­ogy into a 38mm case; un­less the ring was a knuck­le­duster there’d be hardly any room for its bat­tery, let alone fancy ideas such as in­te­gral cam­eras. But per­haps Ap­ple is in­dulging in a lit­tle bit of mis­di­rec­tion here, be­cause cam­eras, con­trol of mul­ti­ple de­vices and self-ad­just­ing straps sound aw­fully like Ap­ple Watch fea­tures we’d like to see.

An Ap­ple ring might be made from pre­cious met­als or some­thing stretchy, and it might have an auto-siz­ing fea­ture.

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