Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One may rule the Mixed Reality scene, but they are by no means definitive products. They struggle with size, weight, and efficiency of control and navigation. Solving these will have a huge impact on the industry. Apple, not resting on ARKit laurels, devised a patent that seemingly solves all of them. As a patent application shows, SIllicon Valley giant is hard at work developing MR finger wearable for navigation control.
With the emphasis strictly on eyewears, the public ear has mistakenly accepted the premise that output is all that matters. But as Apple has been reminding us ever since the company started out, UI input is the other side of the coin. This is why Apple headpiece is still on hold, while ARKit is among the choicest developer platforms out there.
We get the sense that by the time an Apple glasses product hits the market, the company will have solved the issues plaguing today’s headsets. The recent patent application describes an attempt to do just that. The patent called Finger-mounted Device with Sensors and Haptics describes a system of fingertip wearables that come packed with sensors for efficient Mixed Reality navigation.
The patent ‘may allow a user to supply joystick-type input using only lateral movement of the user’s fingertips, may gather force sensor measurements that are used in controlling other equipment’. Based on the quoted words, the finger MR control will, essentially, transform fingers into joysticks and allow for different types of input. Each wearable will come with a number of sensors capable of a number of command inputs. Besides the pressing and rolling input types, the variety of sensors (the patent application speaks of optical, accelerometer, and motion sensors among others) will make MR finger wearable capable of ‘taps, force inputs, persistent touch input, air gestures, and/or other user input’.
This sort of fingertips control will relegate the need for any other input device and clear the space used for depth cameras and in-device sensors, making glasses thinner and lighter. MR finger wearable will furthermore sport a genuine haptic feedback loop. Laden with haptic sensors, ‘a finger mounted device may provide a user with the sensation of interacting on a physical keyboard when the user is making finger taps on a table surface’. That is of course in addition to running Virtual or Augmented Reality devices and systems.
If this looks strikingly similar to Google Soli project, that’s because it is. Samsung, too, is bent on delivering next-gen user input technology. As for Soli, it is a radar-based input tech, and Google has already made genuine strides towards making the discovery public. The South Korean company on the other hand takes the 3D sensor route for powering their AR systems user control.
Apple MR finger wearable look like the easiest solution, but still some time ahead. In fact, it may never reach the market as bulk of Apple patents often do, but it nevertheless shows the direction UI technology is moving. That in itself is quite something.