The Apple Watch may just be the beginning.
The tech giant recently applied for a patent for a “ring computer device” that could take phone calls, operate electronic devices, and even transfer money and computer files with a handshake.
The applications show round and squarish iterations and say the iRing is designed to be worn on the wearer’s first finger and receive input from a second finger. It might be fashioned from plastic but also gold, silver, platinum, and other metals. Some executions include a wheel or crown, similar to the Apple Watch.
The application begins by noting that it is often inefficient and non-ergonomic for users to switch back and forth constantly between a keyboard and a mouse.
But a smart ring would be “more portable than a mouse, doesn’t require a computer, doesn’t require eye contact with the touch screen, allows the user not to be tied to a computer, cellular phone, or tablet to control certain electronic devices (e.g., televisions), reduces the inefficiencies of mode switching by not requiring a user to move his or her hand off a keyboard to move a mouse or touchpad, and is smaller, more portable, and less obtrusive than existing devices,” it adds.
The patent lists some intriguing and even startling possible uses for its new device:
– It could control everyday appliances, such as lights or television. This might come in particularly handy when driving, it says, as users could control car climate or audio without removing their hands from the steering wheel. It could also provide directions, sending out pulsing motions to indicate when it’s time to make a right or left.
– It could function as a keyboard and mouse. Text could be produced by monitoring a user’s handwriting or typing.
– Like the Apple Watch, it might play a role in physical fitness and monitor user’s workouts, heart rate, temperature, motion, cardiac rhythm, perspiration, and galvanic skin response.
– Users could share information and even funds with other wearers. “For example, the user may say, ‘By shaking hands with Steve, I agree to give him $20,’ ” the patent says.
– Afterward, Steve might use that money to raid the hotel minibar, as that process would now be automated. “If the handle or door of a refrigerator were fitted with a [near-field communication] reader, opening the refrigerator with the hand wearing the ring would identify the user to the refrigerator,” the patent says. “The user could then be charged for any item withdrawn from the refrigerator.”
– It could snap “less disturbing and intrusive” photos than the traditional point-and-shoot method.
– It could send out a discreet emergency alert when someone feels threatened.
Tech watchers caution this patent might add up to little more than high-tech spitballing.
“There is no guarantee that an Apple Ring will materialize anytime soon, if at all,” writes Business Insider. “Apple is famous for patenting products without building them, and the patent could mean Apple originally meant to take its wearable ambitions in another direction.”
AppleInsider adds that last year rumors surfaced that Apple would introduce a possible iRing that would be paired with an upcoming smart television. Neither has come to market—so far.