Apple Patent | Ring input devices

Patent: Ring input devices

Drawings: Click to check drawins

Publication Number: 20210096657

Publication Date: 20210401

Applicant: Apple

Abstract

An external device, such as a head-mountable device, can be operated with a ring input device worn on a finger of a user. Such devices can be operated to provide inputs that are received and acted upon by the external device. The inputs can be provided as rotating, tilting, and/or sliding at least a portion of the ring input device with another finger of the user. The ring input device can provide feedback to the user as confirmation that the inputs are being received. A feedback system can also be operated to limit or otherwise provide a force on the finger and/or another portion of the hand to simulate sensations perceived by the user.

Claims

  1. A ring input device comprising: an inner ring that forms inner ring protrusions; and an outer ring that forms an outer ring protrusion and being configured to rotate about the inner ring such that the outer ring protrusion contacts the inner ring protrusions as the outer ring rotates; and a sensor within the outer ring protrusion and being configured to detect rotation of the outer ring about the inner ring.

  2. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein: the inner ring protrusions comprise magnets in an alternating polarity arrangement; and the sensor comprises a magnetometer.

  3. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein the sensor comprises an inertial measurement unit sensor configured to detect contact of the outer ring protrusion with the inner ring protrusions as the outer ring rotates about the inner ring.

  4. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein: the inner ring protrusions are separated by gaps; and the sensor comprises an optical sensor that is arranged so that, as the outer ring rotates about the inner ring, the inner ring protrusions and gaps alternatingly block and transmit light emitted along a light pathway of the optical sensor.

  5. The ring input device of claim 1, wherein: the outer ring protrusion is one of multiple outer ring protrusions of the outer ring; and the outer ring is: biased to an initial position in which the inner ring protrusions do not contact the outer ring protrusions as the outer ring rotates about the inner ring; and configured to be deflected to a deflected position in which the inner ring protrusions contact the outer ring protrusions as the outer ring rotates about the inner ring.

  6. A system comprising: the ring input device of claim 1; and a head-mountable device comprising a display configured to alter a visual output thereof in response to a detection by the sensor.

  7. A ring input device comprising: an inner ring; and an outer ring comprising: a first outer ring portion configured to rotatably engage the inner ring such that the outer ring rotates about the inner ring; and a second outer ring portion configured to slidably engage the first outer ring portion such that the second outer ring portion slides relative to the first outer ring portion and the inner ring; a first sensor configured to detect rotation of the outer ring about the inner ring; a second sensor configured to detect sliding of the second outer ring portion relative to the first outer ring portion or the inner ring.

  8. The ring input device of claim 7, further comprising a spring element biasing the second outer ring portion to a nominal position relative to the first outer ring portion, the second outer ring portion being configured to slide in each of two opposing directions away from the nominal position.

  9. The ring input device of claim 7, wherein: The second outer ring portion comprises a magnet; and the second sensor comprises a magnetometer.

  10. The ring input device of claim 7, wherein the first sensor comprises an optical sensor and the first outer ring portion comprises protrusions and gaps that alternatingly block and allow light to pass between a light pathway of the optical sensor.

  11. The ring input device of claim 7, wherein the inner ring forms multiple inner ring protrusions and the first outer ring portion forms an outer ring protrusion, wherein the first sensor is positioned within the outer ring protrusion.

  12. The ring input device of claim 11, wherein the inner ring protrusions comprise magnets in an alternating polarity arrangement and the first sensor comprises a magnetometer.

  13. The ring input device of claim 11, wherein the first sensor comprises an inertial measurement unit sensor configured to detect contact of the outer ring protrusion with the inner ring protrusions.

  14. A system comprising: the ring input device of claim 7; and a head-mountable device comprising a display configured to: alter a first visual output thereof in response to a detection by the first sensor; and alter a second visual output thereof in response to a detection by the second sensor.

  15. A feedback system comprising: a smart watch comprising: a watch body; and a watch band configured to secure the watch body onto a wrist; a first ring member; a second ring member; and a tensioning element, the tensioning element comprising: sliding elements configured to slide relative to each other to increase a length of the tensioning element; and a locking element configured to controllably prevent the sliding elements from sliding relative to each other; wherein the tensioning element is moveable between: a first configuration, in which the tensioning element is wrapped about the watch band; and a second configuration, in which the tensioning element extends from the watch body to releasably couple to the first ring member and the second ring member.

  16. The feedback system of claim 15, wherein the watch body of the smart watch comprises a display screen for receiving touch input.

  17. The feedback system of claim 15, wherein the locking element comprises an electrostatic brake that controllably attracts the sliding elements to each other.

  18. The feedback system of claim 15, wherein the locking element comprises clamp members that press the sliding elements against each other.

  19. The feedback system of claim 15, wherein the tensioning element is configured to magnetically couple to each of the first ring member and the second ring member.

  20. A system comprising: the feedback system of claim 15; and a head-mountable device comprising: a display for providing visual output to a user; a camera configured to capture a view of the feedback system; a processor configured to transmit a signal to the smart watch to control the locking element of the feedback system based on a detection by the camera.

Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/906,651, entitled “RING INPUT DEVICES,” filed Sep. 26, 2019, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present description relates generally to input devices, and, more particularly, to ring input devices worn on fingers of users.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Various devices can be operated by a user with one or more of a variety of input devices that receive user inputs. The user inputs can be communicated to another device for execution of an action that corresponds to the user input. For example, a head-mountable device can be worn by a user to display visual information within the field of view of the user. The head-mountable device can be used as a virtual reality (VR) system, an augmented reality (AR) system, and/or a mixed reality (MR) system. A user may observe outputs provided by the head-mountable device, such as visual information provided on a display. The display can optionally allow a user to observe an environment outside of the head-mountable device. Other outputs provided by the head-mountable device can include speaker output and/or haptic feedback. A user may further interact with the head-mountable device by providing inputs for processing by one or more components of the head-mountable device and/or by components of an input device that is separate from the head-mountable device. For example, the user can provide tactile inputs, voice commands, and other inputs while the head-mountable device is mounted to the user’s head.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0004] Certain features of the subject technology are set forth in the appended claims. However, for purpose of explanation, several embodiments of the subject technology are set forth in the following figures.

[0005] FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic view of a system including an external device and a ring input device worn on a finger of a user, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0006] FIG. 2 illustrates a side view of a ring input device and a front view of an external device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0007] FIG. 3 illustrates a side view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0008] FIG. 4 illustrates a side view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0009] FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0010] FIG. 6 illustrates a side sectional view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0011] FIG. 7 illustrates a side sectional view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0012] FIG. 8 illustrates a side view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0013] FIG. 9 illustrates a side sectional view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0014] FIG. 10 illustrates a side sectional view of the ring input device of FIG. 9, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0015] FIG. 11 illustrates a front sectional view of the ring input device of FIG. 9, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0016] FIG. 12 illustrates a front view of a ring input device and a front view of an external device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0017] FIG. 13 illustrates a side sectional view of the ring input device of FIG. 12, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0018] FIG. 14 illustrates a front sectional view of a ring input device, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0019] FIG. 15 illustrates a front sectional view of the ring input device of FIG. 14, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0020] FIG. 16 illustrates a schematic view of a ring input device and various external devices, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0021] FIG. 17 illustrates a side view of a feedback system including a watch on a wrist of a user and a pair of ring elements on a finger of the user, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0022] FIG. 18 illustrates a side view of the feedback system of FIG. 17 with the pair of ring elements separated from each other on the finger of the user, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0023] FIG. 19 illustrates a side view of the feedback system of FIGS. 17 and 18 with a tensioning element attaching the watch to the pair of ring elements, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0024] FIG. 20 illustrates a side view of the feedback system of FIGS. 17-19 with the tensioning element limiting movement of the finger, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0025] FIG. 21 illustrates a side view of a tensioning element in a released configuration, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0026] FIG. 22 illustrates a side view of the tensioning element of FIG. 21 in an engaged configuration, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0027] FIG. 23 illustrates a side view of a tensioning element in a released configuration, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0028] FIG. 24 illustrates a side view of the tensioning element of FIG. 23 in an engaged configuration, according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

[0029] FIG. 25 illustrates a block diagram of a system including an external device and a ring input device, in accordance with some embodiments of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0030] The detailed description set forth below is intended as a description of various configurations of the subject technology and is not intended to represent the only configurations in which the subject technology may be practiced. The appended drawings are incorporated herein and constitute a part of the detailed description. The detailed description includes specific details for the purpose of providing a thorough understanding of the subject technology. However, it will be clear and apparent to those skilled in the art that the subject technology is not limited to the specific details set forth herein and may be practiced without these specific details. In some instances, well-known structures and components are shown in block diagram form in order to avoid obscuring the concepts of the subject technology.

[0031] Various devices can be operated by a user with one or more of a variety of input devices that receive user inputs. The user inputs can be communicated to another device for execution of an action that corresponds to the user input. For example, head-mountable devices, such as head-mountable displays, headsets, visors, smartglasses, head-up display, etc., can perform a range of functions that are managed by the components (e.g., sensors, circuitry, and other hardware) included with the wearable device and/or a separate input device.

[0032] While some input devices are bulky or require separate tracking mechanisms, an input device can desirably provide a user with intuitive input options while remaining compact. Additionally, some types of input can be provided in VR, AR, and/or MR applications without requiring tracking of the input devices. As such, the input device can be made compact enough to be worn regularly, such that the user does not find the device to be bothersome to be worn regularly. By providing an input device that is already worn regularly by the user, the user can enter a VR, AR, and/or MR session without requiring the additional step of donning the input devices. Accordingly, a ring input device of the present disclosure can provide a compact form factor that is also able to seamlessly allow the user to perform complex interactions without compromising the overall comfort.

[0033] Some wearable devices, such as rings, can become uncomfortable when using them for extended periods. This can lead the user to adapt by employing unnatural movements, which can lead to an overall poor user experience. Accordingly, a ring input device of the present disclosure can be easily adjusted and provide user comfort while retaining the functions of the input device.

[0034] A ring input device can further act as a security key to unlock and control one or more other devices. The ring input device can include biometric or other security features that allow it to operate as an identifier of the user wearing the device. The ring input device can then communicate with other devices to allow the user to efficiently and securely interact with each of the devices.

[0035] A feedback device can further be worn by a user to provide force feedback while remaining portable and compact. Some feedback devices are bulky and require a significant amount of time for donning prior to use. In contrast, a compact feedback device can be worn in a variety of configurations for portability, efficient deployment, and effective feedback during use.

[0036] These and other embodiments are discussed below with reference to FIGS. 1-25. However, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the detailed description given herein with respect to these Figures is for explanatory purposes only and should not be construed as limiting.

[0037] According to some embodiments, for example as shown in FIG. 1, a system 1 can include a ring input device 100 that is worn by a user 10. For example, the ring input device 100 can be worn on a finger of a first hand 20 of the user 10 and operated by a finger of the same hand 20 and/or by a finger of another hand 22. While only one ring input device 100 is shown in FIG. 1, it will be understood that any number of ring input devices can be worn on a single or multiple fingers of the user 10 and/or on one or both hands. Where multiple ring input devices 100 are used, they can have the same or different features.

[0038] As further shown in FIG. 1, the system 1 can further include an external device 50. The ring input device 100 can be operated to receive user inputs that can be communicated to the external device 50 for operations thereof. For example, the ring input device 100 can receive a user input and communicate a signal to the external device 50. The external device 50 can perform one or more operations based on the received user input. The external device 50 can be configured to provide one or more outputs to the user 10. For example, the external device 50 can include a display 64 providing visual output to the user 10. By further example, the external device 50 can provide other types of outputs to the user, including audio output, haptic feedback, and the like. Additionally or alternatively, the external device 50 can be configured to receive inputs directly from the user and/or from another device other than the ring input device 100.

[0039] In 1 example, the external device 50 can be a head-mountable device that is worn on a head of a user. The head-mountable device can be positioned in front of the eyes of a user to provide information within a field of view of the user. The head-mountable device can provide nose pads or another feature to rest on a user’s nose. The head-mountable device can be supported on a user’s head with a securement element. The securement element can wrap or extend along opposing sides of a user’s head. The securement element can include earpieces for wrapping around or otherwise engaging or resting on a user’s ears. It will be appreciated that other configurations can be applied for securing the head-mountable device to a user’s head. For example, one or more bands, straps, belts, caps, hats, or other components can be used in addition to or in place of the illustrated components of the head-mountable device. By further example, the securement element can include multiple components to engage a user’s head.

[0040] The head-mountable device can include and/or support one or more cameras, as discussed further herein. The cameras can be positioned on or near an outer side of the head-mountable device to capture images of views external to the head-mountable device. The captured images can be used for display to the user or stored for any other purpose. Additionally or alternatively, other sensors, input devices, and/or output devices can be positioned at or on an exterior side of the head-mountable device.

[0041] The head-mountable device of a system 1 can be used in conjunction with the ring input device 100. The head-mountable device can operate the camera in a manner that captures one or more views of the ring input device 100 and/or the hands 20 and 22 within a field of view of the camera. The captured images can be produced on the display 60 of the head-mountable device for observation by the user 10. As used herein, a camera is a device that can optically capture a view of an environment (e.g., within and/or outside the visible spectrum of light).

[0042] The display 60 can optionally transmit light from a physical environment for viewing by the user. Such a display 60 can include optical properties, such lenses for vision correction based on incoming light from the physical environment. Additionally or alternatively, the display 60 can provide information as a display within a field of view of the user. Such information can be provided to the exclusion of a view of a physical environment or in addition to (e.g., overlaid with) a physical environment. Additionally or alternatively, other sensors, input devices, and/or output devices can be positioned at or on an interior side of the head-mountable device.

[0043] A physical environment refers to a physical world that people can sense and/or interact with without aid of electronic systems. Physical environments, such as a physical park, include physical articles, such as physical trees, physical buildings, and physical people. People can directly sense and/or interact with the physical environment, such as through sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell.

[0044] In contrast, a computer-generated reality (CGR) environment refers to a wholly or partially simulated environment that people sense and/or interact with via an electronic system. In CGR, a subset of a person’s physical motions, or representations thereof, are tracked, and, in response, one or more characteristics of one or more virtual objects simulated in the CGR environment are adjusted in a manner that comports with at least one law of physics. For example, a CGR system may detect a person’s head turning and, in response, adjust graphical content and an acoustic field presented to the person in a manner similar to how such views and sounds would change in a physical environment. In some situations, (e.g., for accessibility reasons), adjustments to characteristic(s) of virtual object(s) in a CGR environment may be made in response to representations of physical motions (e.g., vocal commands).

[0045] A person may sense and/or interact with a CGR object using any one of their senses, including sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. For example, a person may sense and/or interact with audio objects that create 3D or spatial audio environment that provides the perception of point audio sources in 3D space. In another example, audio objects may enable audio transparency, which selectively incorporates ambient sounds from the physical environment with or without computer-generated audio. In some CGR environments, a person may sense and/or interact only with audio objects.

[0046] Examples of CGR include virtual reality and mixed reality.

[0047] A virtual reality (VR) environment refers to a simulated environment that is designed to be based entirely on computer-generated sensory inputs for one or more senses. A VR environment comprises a plurality of virtual objects with which a person may sense and/or interact. For example, computer-generated imagery of trees, buildings, and avatars representing people are examples of virtual objects. A person may sense and/or interact with virtual objects in the VR environment through a simulation of the person’s presence within the computer-generated environment, and/or through a simulation of a subset of the person’s physical movements within the computer-generated environment.

[0048] In contrast to a VR environment, which is designed to be based entirely on computer-generated sensory inputs, a mixed reality (MR) environment refers to a simulated environment that is designed to incorporate sensory inputs from the physical environment, or a representation thereof, in addition to including computer-generated sensory inputs (e.g., virtual objects). On a virtuality continuum, a mixed reality environment is anywhere between, but not including, a wholly physical environment at one end and virtual reality environment at the other end.

[0049] In some MR environments, computer-generated sensory inputs may respond to changes in sensory inputs from the physical environment. Also, some electronic systems for presenting an MR environment may track location and/or orientation with respect to the physical environment to enable virtual objects to interact with real objects (that is, physical articles from the physical environment or representations thereof). For example, a system may account for movements so that a virtual tree appears stationery with respect to the physical ground.

[0050] Examples of mixed realities include augmented reality and augmented virtuality.

[0051] An augmented reality (AR) environment refers to a simulated environment in which one or more virtual objects are superimposed over a physical environment, or a representation thereof. For example, an electronic system for presenting an AR environment may have a transparent or translucent display through which a person may directly view the physical environment. The system may be configured to present virtual objects on the transparent or translucent display, so that a person, using the system, perceives the virtual objects superimposed over the physical environment. Alternatively, a system may have an opaque display and one or more imaging sensors that capture images or video of the physical environment, which are representations of the physical environment. The system composites the images or video with virtual objects, and presents the composition on the opaque display. A person, using the system, indirectly views the physical environment by way of the images or video of the physical environment, and perceives the virtual objects superimposed over the physical environment. As used herein, a video of the physical environment shown on an opaque display is called “pass-through video,” meaning a system uses one or more image sensor(s) to capture images of the physical environment, and uses those images in presenting the AR environment on the opaque display. Further alternatively, a system may have a projection system that projects virtual objects into the physical environment, for example, as a hologram or on a physical surface, so that a person, using the system, perceives the virtual objects superimposed over the physical environment.

[0052] An augmented reality environment also refers to a simulated environment in which a representation of a physical environment is transformed by computer-generated sensory information. For example, in providing pass-through video, a system may transform one or more sensor images to impose a select perspective (e.g., viewpoint) different than the perspective captured by the imaging sensors. As another example, a representation of a physical environment may be transformed by graphically modifying (e.g., enlarging) portions thereof, such that the modified portion may be representative but not photorealistic versions of the originally captured images. As a further example, a representation of a physical environment may be transformed by graphically eliminating or obfuscating portions thereof.

[0053] An augmented virtuality (AV) environment refers to a simulated environment in which a virtual or computer generated environment incorporates one or more sensory inputs from the physical environment. The sensory inputs may be representations of one or more characteristics of the physical environment. For example, an AV park may have virtual trees and virtual buildings, but people with faces photorealistically reproduced from images taken of physical people. As another example, a virtual object may adopt a shape or color of a physical article imaged by one or more imaging sensors. As a further example, a virtual object may adopt shadows consistent with the position of the sun in the physical environment.

[0054] There are many different types of electronic systems that enable a person to sense and/or interact with various CGR environments. Examples include head-mountable systems, projection-based systems, heads-up displays (HUDs), vehicle windshields having integrated display capability, windows having integrated display capability, displays formed as lenses designed to be placed on a person’s eyes (e.g., similar to contact lenses), headphones/earphones, speaker arrays, input systems (e.g., wearable or handheld controllers with or without haptic feedback), smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. A head-mountable system may have one or more speaker(s) and an integrated opaque display. Alternatively, a head-mountable system may be configured to accept an external opaque display (e.g., a smartphone). The head-mountable system may incorporate one or more imaging sensors to capture images or video of the physical environment, and/or one or more microphones to capture audio of the physical environment. Rather than an opaque display, a head-mountable system may have a transparent or translucent display. The transparent or translucent display may have a medium through which light representative of images is directed to a person’s eyes. The display may utilize digital light projection, OLEDs, LEDs, uLEDs, liquid crystal on silicon, laser scanning light source, or any combination of these technologies. The medium may be an optical waveguide, a hologram medium, an optical combiner, an optical reflector, or any combination thereof. In one embodiment, the transparent or translucent display may be configured to become opaque selectively. Projection-based systems may employ retinal projection technology that projects graphical images onto a person’s retina. Projection systems also may be configured to project virtual objects into the physical environment, for example, as a hologram or on a physical surface.

[0055] Referring now to FIG. 2, a ring input device and an external device can be used in concert to receive and respond to user inputs.

[0056] As shown in FIG. 2, a ring input device 100 can include an outer ring 110 and an inner ring 150. Each of the outer ring 110 and the inner ring 150 can form part or an entire annular shape that is formed about an axis that extends through the ring input device 100 (e.g., through a space for receiving a finger). While the outer ring 110 and the inner ring 150 are illustrated as being circumferentially continuous, it will be understood that either or both can include interruptions and/or gaps along the circumference thereof.

[0057] The outer ring 110 can form a radially outermost extent of the ring input device 100 or otherwise be at least partially exposed to provide access for operation by a user. For example, a finger of a hand 22 can apply a torque to the outer ring 110 to cause it to rotate in one of two opposite directions relative to the inner ring 150. The outer ring 110 may be knurled or otherwise textured to improve grip with the user’s finger and/or thumb.

[0058] In some embodiments, the ring input device 100 may be used to accept rotary input from the user, which may be used to control aspects of the external device 50. The ring input device 100 and the external device 50 can be separate devices that communicate with each other. The ring input device 100 can receive a user input and communicate with the external device 50, and the external device 50 can perform a corresponding action. The action performed can be based, at least in part, on an existing output of the external device 50 that is provided at the time the user input is received.

[0059] For example, the outer ring 110 may be rotated by the user to scroll through items 70 shown to a user on the display 60 or select from a range of values. As such, rotation can be performed to effect a corresponding action performed by the external device 50, such as scrolling through a list or other set of items visually displayed by the external device 50. In some embodiments, the outer ring 110 may be rotated to move a cursor or other type of selection mechanism from a first displayed location to a second displayed location in order to select an icon or move the selection mechanism between various items 70 that are output on the display 60. Additionally or alternatively, the ring input device 100 may be used to control the volume of a speaker, the brightness of the display 60, a visual output of the external device 50, optical settings of the external device 50, or other hardware settings. In these and other examples, the direction, speed, and/or acceleration of rotation can be interpreted as part of a user input, with corresponding actions being based on one or more of the detected characteristics of the user input. For example, the different directions of rotation can have the opposite, otherwise different, similar, or the same actions performed in response.

[0060] Referring again to FIG. 5, a ring input device can provide enhanced flexibility and comfort to the user during operation. For example, the ring input device 100 can include a user engagement portion 190 that forms a radially innermost extent of the ring input device 100. The user engagement portion 190 can have a shape and other features that facilitate a comfortable engagement with a finger of the user. The user engagement portion 190 can allow radially inner portions of the ring input device 100 to engage the finger such that they do not rotate about the finger when other portions of the ring input device 100 are rotated or otherwise receive a torque. For example, the user engagement portion 190 can include a flexible, elastic, and/or compliant material that conforms to the shape of the user’s finger. By further example, the user engagement portion 190 can be of a polymer (e.g., silicone, fluoropolymer, etc.), a gel, a putty, and/or a foam. In contrast, the outer ring 110, the inner ring 150, and/or other portions of the ring input device 100 can be more rigid than the user engagement portion 190. For example, the outer ring 110, the inner ring 150, and/or other portions of the ring input device 100 can include metal, glass, and/or plastic. While the outer portions of the ring input device 100 (e.g., the outer ring 110) are rotated, user engagement portion 190 can provide adequate friction against the finger so that it does not rotate with the outer portions. Thus, the user engagement portion 190 can help avoid slippage during operation, thereby making the ring input device 100 easier to control and more responsive to the user’s inputs.

[0061] Referring now to FIG. 3, a ring input device can optionally include one or more features for user engagement. As shown in FIG. 3, the ring input device 100 can include an outer ring 110 that includes at least one surface feature 112. For example, the surface feature 112 can be a flat portion of the outer ring 110. Other portions of the outer ring 110 can have a consistent curvature or otherwise different shape, such that the flat portion of the surface feature 112 is visually and/or tactilely distinguishable from other portions of the outer ring 110. It will be understood that other shapes are contemplated, such as convex, concave, undulating, and/or textured surface features 112. One or more functional (e.g., input and/or output) features can be provided at the surface feature 112, such as biometric (e.g., fingerprint) sensors, light indicators, cameras, and the like.

[0062] Referring now to FIG. 4, a ring input device can optionally include one or more features at an outer periphery thereof. For example, as shown in FIG. 4, a cover 160 can be provided over and about at least a portion of the outer ring 110. The outer ring 110 can rotate within the cover 160. The outer ring 110 can be at least partially exposed through an opening of the cover 160 to provide access for operation by a user. A portion of the outer ring 110 that is within the cover 160 can rotate without being exposed to adjacent objects (e.g., fingers), which might otherwise contact and resist rotation of the outer ring 110.

[0063] Referring now to FIG. 5, a ring input device can receive user inputs based on torque applied by the user. Such a capability can be provided without requiring substantial rotation of an outer portion of the ring input device. For example, a ring input device can simulate a spinning ring without actually spinning. This can be accomplished by providing a smooth ring surface and sensing the scrolling action (e.g., torque) with a sensor. Haptic feedback can simulate detents to give the illusion of rotation past such detents.

[0064] The ring input device 100 can include a torque sensor 120 configured to detect torque that is applied by a user to the outer ring 110. For example, the user can apply a torque to the outer ring 110 by urging the outer ring 110 to tend to rotate about the inner ring 150. It will be understood that such a torque may not result in significant rotation about the inner ring 150. For example, the outer ring 110 can be coupled to the inner ring 150 such that no significant rotation is achieved. Despite this coupling, a torque can be applied to the outer ring 110 and transferred to an interface between the outer ring 110 and the inner ring 150. As the outer ring 110 is subjected to such a torque, a torque sensor 120 can detect the torque and interpret the torque as an input from the user.

[0065] In some embodiments, the outer ring 110 may be used to accept torque input from the user, which may be used to control aspects of the head-mountable device. The outer ring 110 may be smooth or textured to facilitate grip with the user’s finger and/or thumb. It will be understood that torque can be applied to the outer ring 110 by frictionally pressing a finger against the outer ring 110 and applying a torque without moving the finger across the surface. It will also be understood that torque can be applied to the outer ring 110 by sliding the finger over a smooth surface of the outer ring 110. In either case, torque can be transmitted and detected.

[0066] In some embodiments, the outer ring 110 may be operated to provide inputs such as those described above. For example, the outer ring 110 may be torqued by the user to scroll a display or select from a range of values. In other embodiments, the outer ring 110 may be torqued to move a cursor or other type of selection mechanism from a first displayed location to a second displayed location in order to select an icon or move the selection mechanism between various icons that are output on the display. The outer ring 110 may also be used to control the volume of a speaker, the brightness of the display screen, visual output of the head-mountable device, zooming in on or out from an image, or control other settings.

[0067] The torque sensor 120 can include one or more strain gauges. The strain gauges of the torque sensor 120 can operate as a resistive sensor formed from a material that exhibits a change in electrical resistance (e.g., conductance) in response to a dimensional change such as compression, tension, or force. The strain gauges can each be a compliant material that exhibits at least one electrical property that is variable in response to deformation, deflection, or shearing of the electrode. The strain gauges may be formed from a piezoelectric, piezoresistive, resistive, or other strain-sensitive materials. While the torque sensor 120 is illustrated between the 110 and the inner ring 150, it will be understood that one or more torque sensors can be positioned between any two components, including a user engagement portion 190. By further example, a torque sensor can be incorporated into a compliant material, such as a material of the user engagement portion 190. Where an applied torque causes the compliant material to deform, the torque sensor can detect the extent and/or other characteristics of the deformation to interpret a user input.

[0068] For certain materials, resistance can change linearly with compression or tension. For other materials, resistance can change following a known curve in response to compression or tension. Accordingly, depending upon the material selected for the strain gauges and the position of the strain gauges, a particular resistance and/or measured voltage can be correlated to a particular amount of strain experienced by a particular strain gauge, which in turn can itself be correlated to an amount of force applied to the force-sensitive structure, which in turn can be correlated to an amount of torque applied to the outer ring 110.

[0069] As further shown in FIG. 5, the ring input device 100 can be provided with a feedback device 180 that includes mechanisms that facilitate haptic feedback. The feedback device 180 can be directly or indirectly coupled to the user engagement portion 190 or another portion of the ring input device 100. A feedback device can be implemented as any suitable device configured to provide force feedback, vibratory feedback, tactile sensations, and the like. For example, in one embodiment, the feedback device may be implemented as a linear actuator configured to provide a punctuated haptic feedback, such as a tap or a knock, and/or a repeating pattern of feedback. Additionally or alternatively, the feedback device 180 can include or be connected to motors, hydraulic actuators, pneumatic actuators, magnetic actuators, piezoelectric actuators, electroactive materials (e.g., polymers), stepper motors, shape-memory alloys, and/or the like for providing mechanical movement as haptic feedback.

[0070] The feedback device 180 can be operated based on the torque detected by the torque sensor 120. For example, the duration, amplitude, frequency, or other parameters of haptic feedback can be based on the magnitude, direction, duration, or other parameter of the applied torque. Such feedback can simulate rotation of the outer ring 110 along a pattern of detents, even when the outer ring 110 is not rotating.

[0071] Referring now to FIG. 6, a ring input device can detect rotation and provide feedback to the user based on the rotation. As shown in FIG. 6, a ring input device 100 can include an outer ring 110 that is configured to rotate relative to an inner ring 150. While the ring input device 100 of FIG. 6 is shown without a separate user engagement portion, it will be understood that such a feature can be provided in addition to or as part of the inner ring 150. The inner ring 150 can include, support, or otherwise provide multiple inner ring protrusions 130 that extend toward the outer ring 110. The outer ring 110 can include, support, or otherwise provide one or more outer ring protrusions 132 that extend toward the inner ring 150. As the outer ring 110 rotates about the inner ring 150, the outer ring protrusion 132 can pass across one or more of the inner ring protrusions 130. The inner ring protrusions 130 and the outer ring protrusion 132 can be positioned and shaped to contact each other to provide tactile feedback to the user as the outer ring 110 rotates about the inner ring 150. For example, rather than passing smoothly over an annular surface, the outer ring protrusion 132 can bump up against the inner ring protrusions 130 during rotation. As such, the tactile feedback can be provided in a manner that is based on the type of rotation that is made by the user.

[0072] The ring input device 100 can further include a sensor 134 configured to detect rotation of the outer ring 110 about the inner ring 150. For example, a sensor 134 can be provided at or near the outer ring protrusion 132 to detect the presence of the inner ring protrusions 130. The inner ring protrusions 130 can include, support, or otherwise provide magnets in an alternating polarity arrangement. As the sensor 134 moves past the magnets of the inner ring protrusions 130, it can detect the magnetic fields thereof. For example, the sensor 134 can include a magnetometer, a hall effect sensor, a magnetic encoder, a reed switch, and/or another sensor configured to detect magnetic fields and/or changes thereof.

[0073] The magnets of the inner ring protrusions 130 can be provided in an alternating polarity arrangement to facilitate detection. For example, the magnets can be provided with different polarities relative to the outer ring 110, so that each magnet is detected by the sensor 134. By further example, the magnets can be provided in a non-repeating pattern (e.g., N-S-N-N-S-N-N-N-S), rather than a repeating pattern (e.g., N-S-N-S), so that the direction of rotation can be inferred from the sequence of magnets as they are detected by the sensor 134. Accordingly, the ring input device 100 can determine, based on the detected movement across the magnets, the direction, rate, and/or extent of rotation of the outer ring 110 about the inner ring 150.

[0074] It will be understood that the arrangement of inner ring protrusions and outer ring protrusions can be different than as illustrated in FIG. 6. For example, the outer ring 110 can include multiple protrusions providing the magnets, and the inner ring 150 can provide one or more protrusions providing the sensor. Such an arrangement maintains the ability to provide both tactile feedback and detection of magnetic fields during rotation. It will be further understood that where relative rotation of the inner and outer rings can be determined, it can further be determined what rotation is being achieved with respect to the user.

[0075] Referring now to FIG. 7, another ring input device can detect rotation and provide feedback to the user based on the rotation. As shown in FIG. 7, a ring input device 100 can include an outer ring 110 that is configured to rotate relative to an inner ring 150. While the ring input device 100 of FIG. 7 is shown without a separate user engagement portion, it will be understood that such a feature can be provided in addition to or as part of the inner ring 150. The inner ring 150 can include, support, or otherwise provide multiple inner ring protrusions 140 that extend toward the outer ring 110. The outer ring 110 can include, support, or otherwise provide one or more outer ring protrusions 142 that extend toward the inner ring 150. As the outer ring 110 rotates about the inner ring 150, the outer ring protrusion 142 can pass across one or more of the inner ring protrusions 140. The inner ring protrusions 140 and the outer ring protrusion 142 can be positioned and shaped to contact each other to provide tactile feedback to the user as the outer ring 110 rotates about the inner ring 150. For example, rather than passing smoothly over an annular surface, the outer ring protrusion 142 can bump up against the inner ring protrusions 140 during rotation. As such, the tactile feedback can be provided in a manner that is based on the type of rotation that is made by the user.

[0076] The ring input device 100 can further include a sensor 144 configured to detect contact between the outer ring protrusion 142 and the inner ring protrusions 140. For example, a sensor 144 can be provided at or near the outer ring protrusion 132 to detect contact with the inner ring protrusions 140. As the outer ring protrusion 142 contacts the inner ring protrusions 140 in a manner that deflects the outer ring 110, the sensor 144 can detect such deflection. For example, the sensor 144 can include a six-degrees of freedom inertial measurement unit (“IMU”) sensor that calculates the position, velocity, and/or acceleration of the outer ring protrusion 142 based on six degrees of freedom (x, y, z, .theta.x, .theta.y, and .theta.z). The sensor 144 can include one or more of an accelerometer and/or a gyroscope. Passage of the outer ring protrusion 142 across the inner ring protrusions 140 can cause detectable deflections. Accordingly, the ring input device 100 can determine, based on the detected movement, the direction, rate, and/or extent of rotation of the outer ring 110 about the inner ring 150.

[0077] It will be understood that the arrangement of inner ring protrusions and outer ring protrusions can be different than as illustrated in FIG. 7. For example, the outer ring 110 can include multiple protrusions, and the inner ring 150 can provide one or more protrusions providing the IMU sensor. Such an arrangement maintains the ability to provide both tactile feedback and detection of deflections during rotation. It will be further understood that where relative rotation of the inner and outer rings can be determined, it can further be determined what rotation is being achieved with respect to the user.

[0078] Referring now to FIG. 8, another ring input device can detect rotation and provide feedback to the user based on the rotation. As shown in FIG. 8, a ring input device 100 can include an outer ring 110 that is configured to rotate relative to an inner ring 150. While the ring input device 100 of FIG. 8 is shown without a separate user engagement portion, it will be understood that such a feature can be provided in addition to or as part of the inner ring 150. The outer ring 110 can include, support, or otherwise provide multiple outer ring protrusions 164 that are separated from each other by gaps 162. The inner ring 150 can include, support, or otherwise provide an optical sensor 154 on a housing 152 that extends about at least a portion of the outer ring 110. As the outer ring 110 rotates about the inner ring 150, the outer ring protrusions 164 and the gaps 162 alternatingly pass through an optical pathway of the optical sensor 154. The optical sensor 154 can detect the presence of each outer ring protrusion 164 and gap 162 that passes through the optical pathway. For example, the optical sensor 154 can include a light emitter and a light sensor. The optical sensor 154 can detect the light when a gap 162 is aligned with the optical pathway in that the gap 162 transmits the light. The optical sensor 154 can detect a lack of light when an outer ring protrusion 164 is aligned with the optical pathway.

……
……
……

You may also like...