Apple, the tech giant that brought you the iPhone, iPad and the Apple Watch, has filed a patent for a simple-looking, but power-packed, smart ring that could raise the bar in the wearable tech sector.
Equipped with a touch screen, dial controller, camera, microphone, voice recognition, haptic feedback and movement detection, the iRing is designed to communicate back to a parent device, presumably an iPhone or iPad.
The sketches submitted to the patent office reveal a ring that would be worn on the index finger of the right hand and controlled with the thumb of the same hand. It could be manufactured in gold, silver, platinum, base metals or plastic.
There's no guarantee that Apple will actually move forward with a plan to develop and release an iRing. Tech insiders claim that large tech companies often file patents with no formal plan to bring the product to market. Nevertheless, speculation abounds on what the new product would potentially do.
If produced, the iRing would share the wearable tech space with the Apple Watch and will presumably do many of the same functions, albeit with a smaller viewing screen. Tech writers are already imagining the ring's potential uses, from unlocking doors and turning on lights with a voice command, to being used as a game controller with a swipe of the hand.
According to Apple, the ring could also be used to control external devices such as a computer’s mouse cursor, a camera’s shutter or a vehicle’s entertainment and climate control system. The device could possibly detect the writing motion of the user and digitally record hand-written notes.
How about transferring computer files with a handshake? Or getting driving directions based on pulse commands emitted from the ring? Or sending out a discreet alert when one senses danger?
The ring's biometric sensors might be used for Touch ID user authentication and Apple Pay mobile payment authorization, as well as for monitoring heart rate, perspiration levels and other activity tracking.
Of course, the iRing could perform more basic functions, such as alerting its wearer of incoming calls, messages and app notifications.
The dial controller would be similar in functionality to the crown of an Apple Watch. It would also have a rechargeable power source.
Forbes contributor Ewan Spence predicted that Apple will introduce its high-tech watch in the spring of 2018 and deliver the first generation of iRings in the fourth quarter of that same year.
Images: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.