Apple patent reveals design for finger sensors that could work with VR

Image via Patently Apple

What you need to know

  • An Apple patent has revealed the design for finger sensors that can be stored an charged on a "Mixed Reality headset".
  • The finger sensors would be worn by a user to gather input.
  • Haptic technology means they could also provide output, simulating touching real objects.

An Apple patent published today and reported via Patently Apple, has revealed the designs for finger sensors that can be mounted on a "mixed reality" headset for storage and charging.

According to the report:

Apple's invention covers a system that 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 sensors may include force sensors, inertial measurement units, proximity sensors, touch sensors, and other sensors. Haptic output devices in the finger-mounted devices may provide vibrations and other haptic output to the fingers of a user as the user interacts with real-world objects and computer-generated virtual objects in virtual reality and mixed reality environments.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, a wireless charging mat or stand, or other electronic equipment.

These certainly look like sensors that could be used alongside some kind of virtual reality device to allow users to provide different inputs. The patent covers many different types of sensor, so the finger units could include microphones, touch/proximity sensors, optical sensors, ultrasonic, accelerometers, muscle activity sensors and more. As per the report:

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 most interesting part of the patent is the feature which allows haptic feedback to provide the user with texture sensations, which would allow it to simulate the feel of touching a real object as you interact with objects in a virtual world.

You can check out the full report here. As always, a patent is no guarantee that we will ever see this technology released. But, the idea of virtual reality sensors that could provide haptic feedback certainly sounds pretty incredible.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9