Apple engineers put considerable thought into a “wearable electronic ring computing device” small enough to put on a finger.
The proposed smart ring would have a touchscreen and work closely with another computer, often acting as an input device for it.
A patent Apple just received is for “an external electronic device with a finger-ring-mounted touchscreen that includes a computer processor, wireless transceiver, and rechargeable power source.” The engineers behind this design see it as an alternative to a touchscreen, keyboard, and/or mouse.
They seem to be describing a tiny external display for an iPhone, iPad or Mac. The primary computer would send options to the smart ring that the wearer could select with a finger touch, without ever needing to look at the main computer.
In some ways it’s similar to early versions of the Apple Watch, which was much more closely tied to an iPhone than current versions of this wrist computer are.
An Apple smart ring with Siri
Of course, this theoretical on-finger device would be able to access Siri, both for giving commands and getting responses. In that sense, it’s similar to the Amazon Echo Loop with Alexa announced last month.
Apple’s engineers see plenty of potential in a smart ring. Haptics could be used to silently give the wearer directions — indicate when it’s time to turn left, for example.
Or motion sensors could be used to recognize hand gestures. It might even be able to recognize text the user is writing.
Apple filed for the “Devices, methods, and user interfaces for a wearable electronic ring computing device” patent in April 2015, and received it today. Whether that means it will become an actual product is anyone’s guess. This company frequently researches concepts, gets a patent on them, and then never does anything with them.