Apple has filed a patent application for a magnetic sensor-based proximity sensing system that can measure the movement of individual finger and thumb bones. The company has filed patents for similar research related to possible future virtual reality gloves for gamers and military training, and finger devices for a mixed-reality headset that could replace sensor gloves.
The proximity sensing architecture enables precise positioning of electronic devices in proximity to a modulated magnetic source. Multiple magnetic sensors aligned to detect magnetic field changes in different field directions axes can also be used to determine the 3D position of the magnetic field and can provide more information in locating the fingers and the hands.
One potential application is a device with fingertip nodes that can include multiple magnetic sensors to track the movement of one or more finger and/or hand sections. By placing a magnetic sensor on each fingertip, for example, inverse kinematics can be applied to compute the orientation, position, and angle of objects, using proximity signals detected by the magnetic sensors.
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The control device with fingertip nodes can also include one or more other electronic components, such as electrodes for enabling capacitive touch, and/or contact sensing between finger tips. It can also include force sensors, actuators for haptic feedback, temperature sensors and heaters.
Apple also says the control device with fingertip nodes can incorporate logic such as an on-board controller, a connector, a transceiver, a battery, and the like. It can also include a host controller that renders the profile of the hand on the screen. Signals from the fingertip nodes can be wirelessly transmitted to the host controllers.