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iRing? Apple publishes a patent for a smart ring that controls your touchscreen

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Apple publishes a lot of patents. Not every single pipe dream turns into a reality, though, and many of Apple’s patents sit around for years before the company decides that the time is ripe for a new form of technology. Recently, a very unexpected patent popped up for a smart ring.

Apple offers up several suggestions for the ring, saying it could help you control your unwieldy phablet, potentially track your hand motions while writing, listen in for voice dictation, or do other cool things. Based on the patent drawings, the ring would be worn on your index finger, and you could use your thumb to navigate on the flat surface of the ring’s side or face. The ring may or may not have a touch screen, depending on what Apple decides to do with it.

The patent doesn’t really explain the use cases for the smart ring, though it does say that it could be used to help navigate and control another device like a phone, tablet, or computer. Potentially, you could talk to your ring to dictate a message, and send it on your phone or tablet via text, email, or a notes app. The ring could also vibrate for notifications and other alerts.

Apple has some things to say on the subject, though the patent details are abstract. The company says that large phones “may be cumbersome, inconvenient, or inefficient for certain tasks and applications.” The patent suggests that the ring could be the perfect intermediary to help when your hands are tied or tired from holding up a larger device for too long. Finally, Apple talks about how the ring could be used to more stealthily manipulate phones and tablets from a certain distance.

“The light emitted by a touchscreen may be inappropriate in certain social environments or even dangerous if it gives away the position of a threatened user,” the patent reads. “A need therefore exists for a more discreet, safer, more efficient, or more ergonomic way to interact with touch pads or touch screens.”

For those with computers, the ring could be used as a controller or even a mouse. We could see the ring  controlling smart home gadgets like lights, garage doors, and blinds, too.

Apple’s ring might also track your hand’s motion through sensors. Theoretically, this could allow the ring to understand what you’re writing and perhaps transmit it to your phone or tablet. The ring’s biometric sensors could also act as a fitness tracker for the wearer, and NFC could be used in mobile payments.

Of course, the patent is just a hint that Apple may be mulling a few different ideas around in its labs. The smart ring may or may not make it to market eventually, but we doubt it would come soon. After all, getting electronics to downsize into a ring that looks good isn’t easy. manufacturers have a hard enough time with smartwatches now.

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Malarie Gokey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Mobile Editor, Malarie runs the Mobile and Wearables sections, which cover smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and…
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