Smart rings can receive notifications from smartphones, track fitness metrics and control devices using gestures.
The smart jewelry segment looks to improve upon the sometimes bland, bulky or geeky designs of current wearables. Both startups and established companies (Apple, Intel and Acer, for instance), are realizing that these devices could be much more successful if designed with both function and style in mind. Apart from smart watches, consumers can now choose digital fashion accessories such as bracelets, pendants, brooches, cufflinks, and smart rings.
One Ring To Rule Them All?
The Japanese company Logbar recently introduced a product simply called “Ring,” which lets wearers use gestures to do things like checking e-mail, taking photos, sending tweets or messages, turning appliances on and off, and sending payments. LED and vibration alerts notify the wearer of status updates and messages. It connects to smartphones, Google Glass and other smart devices via Bluetooth.
Each application has a unique gesture mark that the wearer uses to activate the app. Wearers can also create and record their own gestures. The ring executes commands when you gesture mid-air with your index finger within 5 meters of a Bluetooth device. The company claims the ring can detect small variations of finger gestures to ensure accuracy.
The zinc-and-copper-coated ring is powered by a lithium polymer battery that lasts up to 3 days and comes with a matching cylindrical charging stand. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, it is now for sale at $269.99. The company says it will release the API/SDK soon to developers who want to create custom applications for the smart ring.
Smartwatches have hogged the spotlight lately, with the Apple Watch joining early entrants from Samsung, Sony and others in the consumer market. But perhaps, the ring, as a simpler accessory, should not be overlooked. Already, a handful of companies have created smart rings that could perform many functions that these smartwatches do, minus a larger screen. Here are just a few:
- Arcus: Uses gesture control and motion analyzing technology to track fitness metrics and other parameters in sports (e.g. in swimming: measures distance, total effort, stroke mechanics); Multi-finger gestures to control Bluetooth devices; Water-proof with wireless charging
- MOTA SmartRing: Vibrates to alert users of calls, text messages and social media updates from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; VIP mode lets users restrict which alerts come in; Users can swipe notifications screen to screen; Water-resistant in black and white variant.
- SmartyRing: Displays text, call, alarms, chat notifications; Accept or reject incoming calls; Claims to reduce smartphone checking by 60 percent; Allergy-free surgical steel stainless body with LED display.
- Sesame Ring: RFID-enabled, custom-designed, 3D-printed ring; Currently used as a Charlie Card replacement to travel on the Boston “T” transport system.
- NFC Ring: Near field communication functionality with two inlays: the outer lets users share contact information or a URL, the inner unlocks your smartphone or front door; no charging needed; made of titanium
- Ringly: Cocktail-style ring that alerts wearers to texts, calls and calendar events via lights and vibrations; Five different precious and semi-precious stone styles to choose from
Smart Jewelry for Digital Health
These smart rings, along with other smart jewelry, prove that wearables are not only for tech geeks and fitness buffs but for the fashion-conscious as well. With their built-in accelerometers, smart rings can do the same things as fitness trackers do, such as counting steps and calories burned.
They can connect with smartphones and lets wearers use health and wellness apps in a more discreet way. Right now, these smart rings are a little bulkier compared to common rings, but future versions would likely shrink for a more comfortable fit. Even these early ring models are far less cumbersome to use than most other wearables.
Most people want the digital health capabilities of wearables, but are unwilling to wear something that looks like a gadget or a mini-computer on their wrists. Smart jewelry appeal to a more refined, or even practical, sense of style. That could be a key factor in the mainstream acceptance of wearables.
Jof Enriquez is a registered nurse, medical writer and healthcare journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @jofenriq.