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Apple’s new patent may kick off a new mass-market consumer boom…

Apple’s new patent may kick off a new mass-market consumer boom…
August 21, 2023

Patents are always a great source of insight into product strategies for any technology or biotechnology company. They give us a view, when pieced together, about the future and what it might look like. And a new filing from Apple caught my eye.  It depicts a haptics-enabled finger sleeve that can control augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices. This looks similar to the finger device patent we discussed a year ago in February 2020. And now we can see how the design is developing… Have a look:

Haptics is a technology that simulates touch through strategic vibrations. At the simplest level, our phones vibrating when we receive a call is a form of haptics technology. But this finger sleeve will employ more advanced haptics technology. Users will feel specific vibration patterns based on their actions. And in this case, it is a way for us to interact with a computing system. 

For example, making certain motions with our finger will cause certain actions to happen on the AR/VR headset. And we’ll feel different vibration patterns on our fingers based on which actions are taken. Most companies working on haptics technology have employed gloves. Wearing gloves will certainly allow for a range of different vibration patterns, but it also impacts the user’s ability to feel normal objects. And the user would look a bit awkward wearing them throughout the day.  The finger sleeve is a less intrusive approach. If we think about mass-market consumer devices, they integrate into our daily lives. We can use the technology while doing other things as well. That’s not the same if we are wearing gloves. But it is absolutely seamless if all we’re wearing is a finger sleeve. I know this sounds quirky, but wearing a well-designed version of the sleeve would be like having high-tech jewelry.

It denotes a certain cultural status. And these sleeves would be highly functional as we use augmented reality throughout the day.  I envision consumers walking around with slim and sleek AR glasses and cool finger sleeves in a variety of colors and designs. 

We can think back to when Apple launched its first iPods and its white headsets. They were all the rage. Then we moved on to AirPods, which have already evolved and improved. And the Apple Watch is now the best-selling watch in the entire industry. It’s also a status symbol for the “cool” and tech savvy. 

Maybe Apple will call its new product the Apple “Touch.” And I have to say that this makes me even more excited for Apple’s upcoming AR/VR product releases.  The latest news is that we will see a high-end product launch – probably a VR headset – in 2022. But I am still holding out hope that we could see at least a developer’s version launch in the fall of this year.  After all, we know from the contract manufacturing community that Apple started producing prototypes last year. That means Apple is close to locking in the design for the final product. This is definitely a development I’ll be watching closely in the coming months.

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