Rumored Finger-Mounted Control Device for Apple AR/VR Headset Surfaces in Patent Application

Apple is researching a finger-mounted device with an array of sensors and haptic feedback, to be used as a control device for a mixed-reality headset, according to patent filings.

finger mounted device patent featured
The patent application, first spotted by Patently Apple, was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and resurfaced earlier today. Titled "Finger-Mounted Device With Sensors and Haptics," the filing explains how a finger-mounted device can be used to wirelessly control computers and "head-mounted display systems" that are used for "virtual reality content and/or augmented reality content".

finger mounted device patent 2
The patent filing appears to align with some rumors surrounding the control-input of Apple's long-awaited headset product. A recent report from The Information said that Apple is developing multiple ways to control its mixed reality headset, including a "thimble-like device to be worn on a person's finger."

finger mounted device patent device

In the filing, Apple acknowledges that some implementations of a wearable control device could resemble a glove with sensors to detect hand motions, but says that a finger-mounted device has a number of advantages, such as retaining the ability to feel objects in the user's surroundings and maintain comfort.

In terms of design, the device has two small sidewalls to grip a finger using magnets or springs, and can therefore accommodate a range of different finger sizes. It may be "formed from a deformable material such as metal," but the patent also suggests that other materials such as fabric or polymer may be appropriate.

finger mounted device patent spring magnet

Apple's finger-mounted device is worn on the tops of a user's fingers and leaves fingertips exposed so that it is still possible to touch surfaces as normal.

To allow the user to feel real-world objects accurately, the finger-mounted device may have a U-shaped cross-sectional profile or other shape that allows underside portions of the user's fingertips to be exposed to the environment.

Apple explains that this configuration allows the user to "touch surfaces with the user's own skin, thereby enhancing the user's sensitivity to the environment in which device is being used," giving the example of how a user will be able to "detect small surface imperfections on a touched surface, slight irregularities in surface texture, and other details that might be obscured in a configuration in which the pads of the user's fingers are covered."

The device forms a shell containing force sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, optical sensors, touch sensors, status indicator lights, and more. These sensors use capacitive sensing techniques and other methods to precisely ascertain the way in which the user is moving their finger and interacting with surfaces. The system is said to be so precise that it can detect how hard a user is pressing on a surface and the exact direction of this force.

The control circuitry may gather finger press input, lateral finger movement input, and finger tap input using the sensors and may provide haptic output using the haptic output device.

finger mounted device patent forces

In response to interactions virtualized on the external device, the finger-mounted device can deliver haptic feedback to the user, much like the Apple Watch, to "provide clicks and other haptic output."

For example, the control circuitry may supply haptic output to a user's fingers based on wirelessly received information from the external device. The haptic output may correspond to virtual reality or augmented reality haptic output...

Haptic output may be provided to the user to confirm to the user that a light tap input has been recognized or to otherwise provide feedback to the user. The haptic feedback may provide the user with a sensation of tapping on a physical keyboard or other input device with a movable button member even when the user is tapping on a hard flat surface such as a tabletop. The haptic output provided with the wearable electronic device to the user may be virtual reality haptic output or augmented reality haptic output that is provided while a user is wearing a head-mounted display or other device that creates a virtual reality or augmented reality environment for a user.

In practice, Apple says that this could "provide a user with the sensation of interacting on a physical keyboard when the user is making finger taps on a table surface," in alignment with "a virtual keyboard surface that is being displayed in alignment with the table surface using a head-mounted display." Alternatively, the device may "allow a user to supply joystick-type input using only lateral movement of the user's fingertips" for gaming.

finger mounted device patent ar application

Apple suggests that the device may also be worn "on one or more fingers," but it is not clear what difference this would make to interactions or if Apple expects multiple finger-mounted devices to be worn on a single hand.

The general correspondence of Apple patent applications to recent rumors about Apple's mixed reality headset is clear to see, but whether The Information's "thimble-like" control device is depicted in this patent filing is yet to be seen.

While patent applications cannot be taken as concrete evidence of the exact hardware Apple is planning to sell, it is difficult to look past the way in which the company's recent spate of patent filings may fit into the bigger picture surrounding its AR/VR project.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses
Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

D.T. Avatar
22 weeks ago
*scratches nose*

*deletes 5 years of family photos*
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TVreporter Avatar
22 weeks ago
Nintendo did this years ago! Power Glove anyone?

Attachment Image
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wfulle Avatar
22 weeks ago

*scratches nose*

*deletes 5 years of family photos*
FBI agent scratches nose and shares classified information with the Russians
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ObsidianIce Avatar
22 weeks ago


Attachment Image
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JonnyBlaze Avatar
22 weeks ago
How long before “You're fingering it wrong”?? ?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unregistered 4U Avatar
22 weeks ago
*scratches nose*

*itch alleviated*
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

headset patent document software

Apple's Work on Mixed Reality Headsets Revealed in New Patent Filings

Thursday February 11, 2021 9:46 am PST by
A number of Apple patent applications, published earlier today, appear to be directly related to its long-rumored mixed reality headset, covering a range of aspects including design elements, lens adjustment, eye-tracking technology, and even software. The patents, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Apple, were made public earlier today and seemingly relate to specific...
smart contact lens

Augmented Reality Apple Contact Lenses Are Coming

Friday March 12, 2021 2:13 am PST by
Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has set out an unusually ambitious prediction for an Apple product set to be released in the 2030s: augmented reality contact lenses. Mojo Vision smart contact lens In a recent research note seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that Apple will release augmented reality contact lenses at some point in the 2030s. The lenses are said to bring electronics from...
record gaze tracking patent

Apple Outlines How Smart Glasses Could Record Jitter-Free, Gaze-Driven Video

Tuesday March 16, 2021 6:30 am PDT by
Multiple reports suggest that Apple is developing an augmented reality headset as well as smart glasses, and a newly granted Apple patent may provide a clue about one of the potential features that could be included in the latter device. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent describing "systems and methods for gaze-driven recording of video." Apple's...
maxresdefault

You'll Soon Be Able to Control an Apple Watch Using Hand Gestures

Wednesday May 19, 2021 12:07 pm PDT by
Apple today previewed a long list of new accessibility features coming soon, including AssistiveTouch for the Apple Watch, which will allow users to control an Apple Watch without ever having to touch the display or controls. Aided by on-device machine learning, the Apple Watch's gyroscope, accelerometer, and heart rate sensor will be able to detect subtle differences in muscle movement and...
AppleVRFeature

Apple Aiming to Announce Mixed-Reality Headset With In-Person Event in 'Next Several Months'

Wednesday March 31, 2021 8:25 am PDT by
Apple is aiming to announce a mixed-reality headset at an in-person event sometime in the "next several months," according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In a newsletter outlining the possible future of the company's WWDC conference taking place in an in-person format, Gurman says that Apple aims to release a mixed-reality headset, the first major new device since 2015, at an in-person sometime ...
titanium macbook pro dbrand

Apple's Research on Anti-Fingerprint Coatings Again Hints at Future Titanium Devices

Tuesday February 23, 2021 9:14 am PST by
Apple is researching how it can reduce the appearance of fingerprints and smudges on the metal surfaces of its products and has hinted yet again at the use of titanium for future Apple devices, according to newly-granted patent filings. Image via Dbrand The patent, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Oxide coatings for metal surfaces"...
Cheesegrater iPhone and Trashcan Pro 2

Apple Researching Mac Pro's 'Cheese Grater' Design for Other Devices Like iPhone

Tuesday March 30, 2021 11:38 am PDT by
Apple is researching expanding the 2019 Mac Pro's distinctive "cheese grater" lattice design to other devices, including the iPhone and a "trashcan"-style Mac Pro, according to a newly granted patent filing. Apple introduced an innovative milled lattice pattern on the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR in 2019, which is created by machining a spherical array into the internal and external surfaces...
apple mixed reality headset mockup feature orange

Kuo: Apple Still on Track to Release Mixed Reality Headset Next Year

Friday April 23, 2021 5:53 am PDT by
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had previously stated that Apple's mixed reality headset would debut in the middle of next year, and in a new note today obtained by MacRumors, the highly-respected analyst is once again doubling down that Apple plans to showcase its mixed reality headset in 2022. The information we know on Apple's headset is somewhat scarce, but according to one report, the...
eye iris

Apple's AR/VR Headset Could Use Iris Scanning for Apple Pay

Wednesday March 24, 2021 3:28 am PDT by
Apple's long-rumored mixed-reality headset may feature iris scanning for authentication, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a recent note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that he has reached the conclusion that Apple's mixed-reality headset may sport iris recognition on the basis of the hardware currently understood to be inside the device. We are still unsure if...
forcetouch

Apple Exploring Wider Use of Haptic Feedback on MacBooks

Tuesday March 9, 2021 8:57 am PST by
Apple is interested in expanding the use of haptic feedback on MacBook devices, according to a newly granted patent filing. The patent, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and first spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Laptop computing device with discrete haptic regions" and explains how a MacBook could provide significantly expanded haptic feedback across multiple areas....