Researchers at the University of Washington recently developed a smart ring, AuraRing, a combination of rings and wristbands, that detects the exact position of a person’s index finger and continuously tracks the movement of a hand, specifically, the ring works by sending a signal that can be picked up on a wristband. The position and orientation of the ring and the fingers it connects can then be identified.
In Paul J. G. Allen (Paul G. Eric Whitmire, a PhD student at Allen’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, says they’re considering the next generation of computing platforms that need a tool that can fully track finger-to-finger operations in addition to gestures or finger pointing.
It is understood that the AuraRing smart ring is made up of 800 rings of wire wrapped around the 3D printed ring. The current flowing through the wire creates a magnetic field that is absorbed by three sensors on the wristband. Based on the values detected by the sensor, the researchers were able to identify the exact location of the ring in space, allowing them to determine the location of the user’s finger from there.
Farshidsi Parizi, a doctoral student and a member of the study team, said that to track continuously in other smart rings, users must stream all their data wirelessly, which consumes a lot of power. So why many smart rings can only detect gestures and send these specific commands. The Ring of the AuraRing is a power consumption of only 2.3 milliwatts, resulting in an oscillating magnetic field that the wristband can continuously sense. This does not require any communication from the ring to the wristband.
AuraRing Smart Ring can pick up handwriting through continuous tracking (perhaps a short response to a text message) or allow someone to have a virtual reality avatar to mimic what they’re doing with their actual hands. Because the ring uses a magnetic field, it can track the movement of a finger even if the user can’t see the hand (for example, the user can’t get the phone on a crowded bus).
The researchers designed the AuraRing smart ring to be used immediately after out of the box, without relying on a specific user. They tested the system on 12 participants of different hand types. The team compared the actual position of the participants’ fingers with the position sitford by AuraRing. In most cases, the tracking position of the system is consistent with the actual position within a few millimeters. The team also said the technology behind the AuraRing smart ring may not only be useful for games and smartphones, but could be easily added to smartwatches and other wristband devices.
According to Shwetak Patel, a professor at Allen Business School and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, AuraRing provides a wealth of input slots because it continuously monitors the movements of hands, not just gestures. Smart rings such as AuraRing can detect the onset of Parkinson’s disease by tracking subtle hand shocks, or help with stroke recovery by providing feedback on hand exercise.