Today the US Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to finger sensor devices that will provide accurate hand feedback allowing users to work with content seen on the display of a headset using three-dimensional air gestures and more.
Apple invention covers a finger-mounted device that may include finger-mounted units coupled to control circuitry. The control circuitry may wirelessly transmit information gathered with the finger mounted units to an external device to control the external device.
The control circuitry may also use the finger-mounted units to provide a user’s fingers with feedback such as haptic feedback.
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.
The finger-mounted units may each have a body. The body serves as a support structure for components such as force sensors, accelerometers, and other sensors and for haptic output devices. During operation, a user may wear the finger mounted units on the tips of the user’s fingers while interacting with external objects.
The body of each finger-mounted unit may have a U-shaped cross-sectional profile that leaves the finger pad of each finger exposed when the body is coupled to a fingertip of a user’s finger. 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.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative device such as a finger-mounted device; FIG. 2 is a top view of a user’s hand and illustrative finger-mounted device components on the finger tips of the user’s hand. Some or all of control circuitry #14 may be contained in units #22 or may be mounted in separate housing structures (eg, part of a wrist band, a glove, a partial glove such as a fingerless glove or glove in which portions have been removed under the pads of a user’s finger tips, etc.).
Apple’s patent FIG. 4 above is a perspective view of an illustrative finger-mounted device; FIG. 14 and 15 are views showing illustrative mounting arrangements for finger-mounted devices.
Apple’s patent FIG. 26 below is a side view of an illustrative finger-mounted device being worn on a finger at a location other than the tip of the finger; FIG. 27 is a side view of an illustrative finger-mounted device with optical sensors for gathering touch input from the upper surface of a user’s finger; and FIG. 28 is a diagram showing how markers may be used in calibrating a system in which a finger-mounted device is used.
Further to FIG. 28, Apple notes that the user may interact with the displayed visual content in the head mounted display by supplying force input, motion input (eg, air gestures, three-dimensional air gestures)taps, shearing force input, and other input.
Apple’s patent FIG. 3 is an alternative ring style device design. Apple notes that FIG. 3 may, as an example, be formed from a soft elastomeric material, fabric, or other flexible material that allows the user to feel surfaces through the ring (unit #22). If desired, sensors, haptic devices, and or other components may be mounted under the pad of finger #32 in locations such as location #36.
This is Apple’s second patent win for this invention. Apple added 20 new patent claims to better define and protect the invention from competitors and patent trolls. Listed below are some of the key additions to Apple’s invention:
- The finger device defined in claim 1 wherein the sensor comprises a force sensor.
- The finger device defined in claim 2 wherein the force sensor is configured to measure shear force as the finger pad moves across an external surface.
- The finger device defined in claim 2 wherein the force sensor is configured to detect finger presses on an external surface.
- The finger device defined in claim 2 wherein the force sensor is one of multiple force sensors in the first side body portion that respectively produce separate force measurements along the first side of the finger.
- The finger device defined in claim 1 wherein the haptic output is configured to mimic a button click sensation on the finger.
- The finger device defined in claim 1 wherein the sensor comprises an accelerometer.
- The finger device defined in claim 1 further comprising a motion sensor that gathers finger gesture input.
- The finger device defined in claim 8 wherein the finger gesture input comprises three-dimensional air gestures.
- A system, comprising: a head-mounted device having a display and configured to be coupled to the head of a user; and a finger device configured to be coupled to a finger of the user and to overlap a fingernail of the finger, the finger device comprising: first and second side portions that are movable relative to one another and that respectively extend down first and second opposing sides of the finger while leaving a finger pad of the finger exposed; a force sensor in the first side portion; and a haptic output device that provides haptic output to the finger based on force measurements gathered with the force sensor and based on display content on the display.
- A finger device configured to be coupled to a finger of a user, the finger device comprising: a U-shaped housing configured to overlap a fingernail of the finger and having first and second side housing portions that are movable relative to one another and that respectively extend down first and second opposing sides of the finger while leaving a finger pad of the finger exposed; a sensor in the first side housing portion that detects finger gestures on an external surface; and a haptic output device that provides haptic output to the finger in response to the finger gestures.
- The finger device defined in claim 16 wherein the finger gestures comprise finger taps.
- The finger device defined in claim 16 wherein the finger gestures comprise drag-and-drop gestures.
For more details, review Apple’s granted patent 11,416,076