In 2015 Apple filed a patent for an “Apple Ring.” And it’s back — kinda — in a new patent filing (number 9,672,702) for “thermal haptic alert notification.”
The 2015 patent filing was for a “ring computing device” that a user could use to control an external electronic device with a finger-ring-mounted touchscreen that includes a computer processor, wireless transceiver, and rechargeable power source. The ring would have a variety of the features of the Apple Watch.
The new patent filing not only mentions a ring, but also the iPhone and Apple Watch. It’s for computing devices that can incorporate thermal haptic feedback (THF) devices for providing feedback in the form of a temperature change. The thermal haptic feedback device can also change temperature based on information received from external computing devices.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that computing devices often provide a variety of indications to a user through devices such as display devices and audio devices. In some computing devices, motors or solenoids are incorporated to provide vibrational feedback to users of the computing devices. Apple says that because motors and solenoids can be bulky and occupy a relatively large amount of space within certain computing devices, the benefit of providing such vibrational feedback can be spoiled by the amount of space occupied by the motors and solenoids.
How could the THF technology be used. A user could set a call notification to be a pattern that travels around the wrist or over the surface of the computing device. The device could reflect the temperature of your home or office, so you could remotely adjust heating and cooling.
It could be used in a guessing game where users who guess an answer to a question that is close to the right answer may feel warmer sensation from their mobile device compared to those users who guess an answer that is not close to the right answer. Another example of a game that can use the THF device is a battle related game, where a player of the game can be notified that they have been injured in the game using a temperature change of the THF device. Heck, in some embodiments, the THF device could even be used to generate power to charge a battery of the computing device.
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.