By , Dan Moren
Published November 04, 2015
Move over, smartwatches: the ring's the thing.
A newly revealed Apple patent suggests that the company may be in the process of expanding its smart wearables category beyond the Apple Watch by developing a piece of smart jewelry.
We’ve likely got a long wait for an Apple ring to find its way from the drawing board to your finger. Even if some of these concepts one day surface in a future Apple device, whether that’s a ring, a phone or a watch, it’s worth remembering that many of the ideas that show up in patents -- Apple’s included -- never see the light of day. We'd also be remiss for not noting the date of this particular patent filing: April 1, 2015.
Still, it’s nice to dream about a ring that could make even Hal Jordan jealous. Here are the many ways a connected ring out of Cupertino could equip you with your own set of superpowers.
Ever wanted to control your TV, iPhone, or personal computer with a mere wave of your hand? That's one potential application for a smart ring. Using motion sensors embedded in the ring, you might be able to turn your TV on with a flick, or even adjust the volume by making a knob-turning motion. Further fine controls could be accomplished via the ring's built-in touchscreen — yes, the patent suggests it would have a tiny touchscreen — using combinations of gestures and taps or swipes to trigger certain functions.
You might say your ring is your passport. Apple describes a scenario where you authenticate yourself with a username and password when donning the ring, and thereafter can use the ring's built in Near Field Communication (NFC) chip — the same technology your iPhone and Apple Watch use for Apple Pay — to prove your identity, access secure files, and so on. Like the Watch, the ring would be able to detect when it’s removed from your finger, at which point you'd have to authenticate yourself once again.
Thanks to that same NFC chip, two connected rings in close proximity could transfer information when a specific gesture is performed — say, a handshake. Meeting someone and shaking their hand could automatically exchange contact information, for example, or perhaps even signal a transfer of electronic funds between two parties.
If you're just starting to come around to the idea of making or receiving phone calls on your Apple Watch, that may already be a thing of the past once a smart ring arrives on the scene. The ring may be able to capture quiet speech simply by holding it up to your neck, using a combination of its own built-in microphones as well as other wirelessly connected devices to compensate for background noise and enhance the low volume of your speech. That would potentially let you send voice messages or carry out conversations without disrupting those around you.
Because of its placement on a finger, a ring is well positioned to detect the movements of the hand. That could allow a smart ring to capture the movement of writing and translate that into actual words. Not only would that mean the ability to digitize notes without the use of a smart pencil or pen, it could even allow one to send text messages simply by, say, tracing a finger on a tabletop.