Apple Patents a New Way to Input VR Headset Gestures Using a Ring


Apple is probably trying to make VR controls easier for everyone. Evidence has emerged from patent applications (Application Number 20210303068 and 20210303069) filed by Apple, where the company seems to be interested in developing a method where users would wear a ring (or rings) and using simple hand gestures, they would be able to trigger actions. The proposed design is, however, is not just limited to rings but, some of the drawings also show Apple Watch, so there may be a possibility of turning the Apple watch into a VR controller as well.

As per the patent applications, Apple is developing methods of detecting skin-to-skin contact, contact between two hands or between two fingers, which could trigger actions in virtual reality or augmented reality environments.

Actions that one could trigger could be moving a cursor, scrolling or panning, adjusting control settings, opening a file or document, viewing a menu, making a selection, executing instructions or even operating a peripheral device connected to the host device.

Some of the illustrations show a wearable device in the form of a ring with a band mechanism that can hold different kinds of electrodes to capture various movements and gestures. In the case of such a wearable device, whenever the electrodes register a movement pattern, it will generate a stimulation signal at different frequencies. The amplitudes of these frequencies will be captured and identified, based on which an operation will be initiated.

Device in the form of a ring can be used to trigger various operations
A device in the form of a ring can be used to trigger various operations

Also Read: Sony Reveals Next-Gen PlayStation VR At a Developer’s Conference: 4K Display, 110 Degree FOV, and More

The concept is now purely focused on the movement of two hands and fingers as diagrams show that even wearing the ring on the index finger and making contact with the thumb could trigger an output signal. Then some drawings show how a movement similar to that of a mouse can be simulated using the index finger and palm of another hand. Another illustration shows rings on both index fingers and pointing in space, making anyone feel like moving an object in space or shooting enemies in video games.

Arguments could be there like an RF-based system could be used to detect skin-to-skin contact. However, RF-based systems can not precisely determine whether a finger is touching the other hand or close to the other hand. Apple also has plan A and plan B where it comes to the processing system. Apple Watch can be used for sensing and processing the sensed signal, and the drive circuitry and electrode can be implemented in another, a preferably smaller device like a ring. In some cases, either one or both the devices for driving the drive signal and sensing the signal can be implemented in regularly used accessories like gloves, finger cuff, bracelets, necklaces, armbands, headphones or even AirPods.

The index finger of the hand with Apple Watch making skin contact with the other hand to simulate a gesture
The index finger of the hand with the Apple Watch making skin contact with the other hand to simulate a gesture

As of now, it’s now clear which route Apple may take, but this is sure that Apple is trying to step into the world of VR and AR, preferably by using products that many people use, like an Apple Watch or AirPods.