Over the years Apple’s engineering teams have been working on several tracks when it comes to wearable devices that users will be able to primarily use with Apple’s future mixed reality headset. Apple is working on VR gloves, Rings, Finger-Mounted devices and even an oddball device. Today the US Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent their second finger-mounted device patent that is definitely not about an Apple ring.
Apple’s patent focuses on a system that includes a finger device that is worn on a user’s finger. The finger device has sensor circuitry in a housing. The sensor circuitry may include a strain gauge, accelerometer, and/or other sensor circuitry to detect finger input as the housing is moved by the finger. Wireless communications circuitry may be used to supply the finger input to other devices in the system such as a head-mounted device. During operation, finger input may be used to manipulate content displayed by the head-mounted device or other equipment in the system.
One or more finger devices may gather user input from a user. The user may use finger devices in operating electronic devices. For example, A finger device may be used as a controller for a virtual reality or mixed reality device (eg, head-mounted equipment such as glasses, goggles, a helmet, or other device with a display).
During operation, the finger devices may gather user input such as information on interactions between the finger device(s) and the surrounding environment (eg, interactions between a user’s fingers and the environment, including finger motions and other interactions associated with virtual content displayed for a user).
The user input may be used in controlling visual output on the display. Corresponding haptic output may be provided to the user’s fingers using the finger devices. Haptic output may be used, for example, to provide the fingers of a user with a desired texture sensation as a user is touching a real object or as a user is touching a virtual object. Haptic output can also be used to create detents and other haptic effects.
Finger devices can be worn on any or all of a user’s fingers (eg, the index finger, the index finger and thumb, three of a user’s fingers on one of the user’s hands, some or all fingers on both hands, etc.).
To enhance the sensitivity of a user’s touch as the user interacts with surrounding objects, finger devices may have inverted U shapes or other configurations that allow the finger devices to be worn over the top and sides of a user’s finger tips while leaving the user’s finger pads exposed. This allows a user to touch objects with the finger pad portions of the user’s fingers during use.
If desired, finger devices may be worn over knuckles on a user’s finger, between knuckles, and/or on other portions of a user’s finger. Finger devices may have a single segment (eg, a single housing that fits over the end of a user’s finger) or may have multiple segments (eg, multiple housing portions that are flexibly coupled to each other so that they may be worn on respective segments of a user’s finger). One or more finger devices may be worn at a time. The use of a finger device that is worn on a user’s fingertip is sometimes described herein as an example.
Beyond being a headset accessory, the finger-mounted devices could be used with future desktop computers, tablets, iPhones, AirPods and more.
The finger device housing may have hinge structures that allow portions of the housing to fold with respect to each other. Magnets or other bistability structures may be used to provide the folding housing with folding bistability. The folding bistability of the housing allows the housing to be placed in a stable unfolded state that releases the finger or a stable folded state in which the housing snaps over the finger and holds the finger device in place.
A base may be used to store the finger device. The base may have wireless power circuitry to wirelessly charge the finger device. In some configurations, the base may have deployment structures that help place the finger device on the user’s finger for use and that help remove the finger device for storage. Finger device support structures may form a stand-alone dock, may form an enclosure, may form part of a wearable electronic device, and/or may form other base structures.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative system with a finger-mounted device; FIG. 2 is a top view of an illustrative finger of a user on which a finger device has been placed; FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device on the finger of a user; FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an illustrative finger device with hinge.
Apple’s patent FIG. 5 below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device with magnetic structures to provide folding bistability that helps the user remove the finger device from the user’s finger and that helps the user attach the finger device to the user’s finger.
Apple’s patent FIG. 6B below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device in a first stable state in which the finger device is being worn on a finger of a user in accordance with an embodiment; FIG. 6C is a cross-sectional side view of the illustrative finger device of FIG. 6B in a second stable state in which the finger device is released from the finger of the user and stored on a base in accordance with an embodiment.
Apple’s patent FIG. 9 above is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative finger device with interlocking gears; FIG. 24 is a top view of an illustrative removable case such as a removable battery case in which a head-mounted device and a finger device are stored; FIG. 25 is a perspective view of an illustrative removable case for storing a finger device.
For more details, review Apple’s granted patent 11,360,587