Skip to main content

Leak reveals how Apple VR headset’s hand tracking may work

Apple’s secret mixed-reality headset — dubbed Reality Pro — is due to launch imminently, but the way you’ll use the device is something of a mystery. Sure, rumors have pointed to some form of gesture control, but that’s a pretty vague description. Fortunately, we might now have a better idea of how it will work.

That’s because Apple has just been granted a patent outlining how you might be able to use a special ring to control objects while using the Reality Pro headset. The idea is that, with this ring on your finger, you’ll be able to perform various gestures that will let you open apps, scroll webpages, and more.

The patent explains that Apple is working on gestures specifically involving skin-to-skin contact. That might mean tapping the fingers of one hand onto the palm of another. Or it could mean pinching the fingers of one hand together. That could let the headset detect a wide range of movements and gestures.

Apple’s idea of using a ring to enable this gesture control system is interesting because we haven’t seen this sort of thing before. Other patents have covered things like using an Apple Pencil to draw in augmented reality, or popping thimble-like devices onto your fingertips to enable hand-tracking.

A small handful of leakers and analysts have hinted that the Reality Pro will use some form of gesture system, with journalist Mark Gurman suggesting you’ll be able to look at app icons on-screen and then pinch your fingers to open the app, for example. But few have suggested the ring device outlined in Apple’s patent.

Other secret ideas

A rendering of an Apple mixed-reality headset (Reality Pro) in a gold color seen from the front.
Apple headset render. Ahmed Chenni,

This isn’t the first hand-tracking idea Apple has been toying with for its headset. We’ve previously seen an Apple patent that outlined how the headset could use two Apple Watches to enable its gesture controls (and this latest patent also explores that idea). But that seems a pretty clunky — not to mention expensive — way of going about things.

Using a ring would be a much more streamlined way of granting you the ability to use gesture controls, and wouldn’t require you to fork out hundreds of dollars for two expensive watches. As well as that, it would probably be less likely to get damaged in the process of using gesture controls than two bulky Apple Watches, so that’s another plus.

Since this is just a patent, it’s best to treat it with a degree of skepticism. In the end, Apple might just be exploring ideas and could use a totally different method for gesture control — if it includes it with the Reality Pro at all.

Ultimately, we only have a few weeks to find out how the Reality Pro’s gesture control system will work, as Apple is widely expected to launch the headset at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 5. Until then, we’re left to read the patent tea leaves for clues.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Blake
In ancient times, people like Alex would have been shunned for their nerdy ways and strange opinions on cheese. Today, he…
Apple boss says AR ‘may be even better than just the real world’
Tim Cook Apple Event 2021

Besides maintaining Apple’s position as one of the world’s leading tech firms, the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, is also highly accomplished at never giving anything away.

This essential skill -- an absolute must-have for Apple executives -- comes into its own during media interviews, where Cook and his colleagues have to carefully formulate entire answers before the words leave their lips.

Read more
Apple may embrace the metaverse now after all
Apple CEO Tim Cook is superimposed over the the words augmented reality.

Apple CEO Time Cook described something similar to the metaverse in a recent interview, possibly changing his mind about a digital world to enhance our own.

The most recent revelation about Cook's changing ideas about AR/VR technology and the metaverse comes from an interview in GQ. "My thinking always evolves. Steve taught me well: never to get married to your convictions of yesterday," Cook mused.

Read more
Apple just patented a new VR headset controller — but there’s a catch
Apple VR Headset Concept by Antonio De Rosa

Apple’s mixed-reality headset is due to launch this June at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and a freshly published patent hints at some of the controllers Apple might offer with the device. But some major caveats could prevent these accessories from ever seeing the light of day.

The patent (number 20230096068) describes how Apple could create a handheld controller with a “torque feedback mechanism” to provide immersive physical responses while using a mixed-reality headset. That might help offset the drawbacks of virtual input methods (like touchscreens), which can “detract from the realism” of the experience and leave a user unsure if their input has properly registered, according to Apple.

Read more