Apple has been granted a patent (number US 11720174 B2) for “electronic finger devices with charging and storage systems.” It’s one of several patents that the company has filed regarding finger gadgets that can be used with Macs and the upcoming Vision Pro spatial computer.
About the patent
In the patent Apple says that electronic devices such as computers can be controlled using computer mice and other input accessories. In virtual reality systems, force-feedback gloves can be used to control virtual objects. Cellular telephones may have touch screen displays and vibrators that are used to create haptic feedback in response to touch input.
However, Apple says that devices such as these may not be convenient for a user. For example, computer mice generally require flat surfaces for operation and are mostly used with desktop computers in fixed locations. Force-feedback gloves can be cumbersome and uncomfortable. Touch screen displays with haptic feedback only provide haptic output when a user is interacting with the displays.
Apparently, Apple thinks that the answer is electronic devices that are configured to be mounted on the body of a user and that may be used to gather user input and to provide a user with output. For example, electronic devices that are configured to be worn on one or more of a user’s fingers, which are sometimes referred to as finger devices or finger-mounted devices, may be used to gather user input and to supply output.
A finger device may, as an example, include an inertial measurement unit with an accelerometer for gathering information on figure motions such as finger taps or free-space finger gestures, may include force sensors for gathering information on normal and shear forces in the finger device and the user’s finger, and may include other sensors for gathering information on the interactions between the finger device (and the user’s finger on which the device is mounted) and the surrounding environment.
The finger device may include a haptic output device to provide the user’s finger with haptic output and may include other output components. During operation, a user of a virtual reality or mixed reality device (e.g., head-mounted equipment such as glasses, goggles, a helmet, etc.) may gather information on interactions between the finger device(s) and the surrounding environment (e.g., interactions between a user’s fingers and the environment, including finger motions and other interactions associated with virtual content displayed for a user) and may supply appropriate output such as haptic output.
Finally, 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.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “system may include one or more finger-mounted devices such as finger devices with U-shaped housings configured to be mounted on a user’s fingers while gathering sensor input and supplying haptic output. The finger devices may have power receiving circuitry configured to receive power from a power source.
“The power source may be incorporated into an electronic device such as a battery case, a head-mounted display, or a wireless charging mat or stand. The power source may supply power through terminals that form ohmic contacts with mating terminals in the finger device or may transmit power wirelessly using capacitive coupling or inductive charging arrangements. A finger device may have hinge structures that allow portions of the device to rotate relative to each other.”