Apple’s smart ring could let you command other devices by pointing at them

Apple smart ring
(Image credit: Apple)

The rumored Apple smart ring might use a litany of gesture controls, according to a new patent, which could allow you to point your ring-wearing finger at another device to send commands.

We’d already heard about the Apple Ring (let’s face it, that will likely be its name) in a previous patent, which implied it would come with biometric sensors, Siri connectivity, and a tiny touchscreen – and the first mention of gesture controls to navigate through interfaces.

But the new patent suggests users could have gesture controls that connect the Apple Ring with whatever device the wearer gestures toward. So if you wanted to link to your Apple TV, you might be able to just point your ring-fearing finger at it. 

Apple smart ring

(Image credit: Apple / USPTO)

The patent goes down a list of other things the gestures can control on other devices, like changing the volume, user interface, and even tweak the temperature or the brightness of lights – suggesting the Apple Ring could interact with smart home appliances, not just Apple’s device lineup.

The Apple Ring might not just use gestures – the patent mentions the wearable could use the touchscreen, voice controls or a physical dial to interface with other devices. (Heck, it mentions the latter might even be replaced by a tiny trackball.) In any case, commands may be transmitted through near-field communication (NFC), which the tech giant already uses for Apple Pay. 

There are wilder potentials nested in the patent, too, like using the Apple Ring to send messages to a ‘second user’ with their own Apple Ring – think the Apple Watch 5’s Walkie Talkie app, but with feedback (presumably through the wearable’s haptics via vibration). 

What is the Apple Ring for, really?

This second look supports our suspicions that an Apple Ring would serve as a mini-Apple Watch. While we've seen other ring-shaped peripherals, they haven’t been proposed to directly control other devices in the same way. 

The Amazon Echo Loop, for instance, is really just a wearable microphone for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant; sure, you can theoretically control your smart home with it, but only by routing each device through Alexa first. 

The Apple Ring, as described here, could be a much more intuitive way to control each device individually – point at it and make a gesture (say, twisting clockwise) to turn speaker volume or light brightness up. The corollary: you’d conceivably have to be close to the device to control it over NFC, while Alexa can theoretically tweak linked devices from miles away.

Thus, the Apple Ring is likely an alternative to an Apple Watch that relies more on immediacy and the ease of gestures rather than having to sift through menus. It suggests a more novel and intuitive method of controlling your myriad home devices, which might be a relief to anyone overwhelmed by how many apps and systems it takes to link up and control a smart home.

And yes, this is just a patent, so anything could change between this concept and an actual Apple Ring we might someday get, if ever. There’s no telling whether such an interface could work as seamlessly as described until we see such a device in person.

Via AppleInsider

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.