An Apple ‘smart ring’ could follow long-awaited AR/VR headset

Patently Apple smart ring
(Image credit: Patently Apple)

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office recently published a second Apple patent application for a so-called "smart ring." The technology could eventually be used with AR, VR, and MR applications, according to Patently Apple (opens in new tab)

The proposed smart ring features sensors intended to "sense the presence of objects, distances to objects or proximities of objects, movements of objects (e.g., whether objects are moving, or the speed, acceleration, or direction of movement of objects), and so on."

Further, the included technology can improve the sensitivity or speed of sensor system operations. 

Patently Apple smart ring

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

At the heart of the Apple patent application is an invention that includes one or more self-mixing interferometry (SMI) sensors. 

As Patently Apple explains: 

"In one instance, the SMI sensor(s) may be used to determine a relationship between a ring and a handheld device, such as an Apple Pencil.  

More specifically, the patent relates to the configuration and operation of SMI-based gesture input systems--i.e., systems that can identify gestures made by a user using signals received from one or more SMI sensors.

An SMI sensor can be used to optically measure the relative motion (displacement) between the SMI sensor and a target (e.g., a surface or object), with sub-wavelength resolution.

When displacement measurements are associated with measurement times, the velocity of the target may also be measured. Furthermore, by modulating the SMI sensor with a known wavelength modulation (e.g., a triangular modulation), the absolute distance from the SMI sensor to the target may be measured."

Apple is expected to introduce an AR/VR headset for entertainment and gaming that will compete with the Meta Oculus Rift/Quest and other products. Long-rumored to get a big reveal in 2022, the new headset instead should be revealed next year, perhaps as early as next month. 

Introducing a brand new product category to kick off a new year makes sense. If correct, it would be the company's first January special event since 2010. That was the year the late Steve Jobs announced the first iPad, which was released later that year. 

As we noted, "since Apple loves its anniversaries, the rumored January release window is very tempting to believe."

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.