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Apple patent envisions 'finger devices' for controlling objects in AR and VR

The fingernail-sized device is loaded with sensors that let users connect to other devices, according to a patent application.

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Apple finger device

Apple is envisioning a device that attaches to a user's finger to control virtual objects.

US Patent and Trademark Office

Apple has filed a patent application for small "finger devices" loaded with sensors that allow people to interact with objects in AR or VR. The application was published Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office. 

Elements such as force sensors, optical sensors and ultrasonic sensors would be used for "gathering finger input from a user." That input could then be used to control virtual objects in mixed reality or virtual reality environments, with the finger device providing haptic feedback for a realistic effect. For example, someone could change the volume on a HomePod speaker by turning a virtual dial while wearing the finger device. 

It could also carry out commands when a person runs an "external object" -- such as a fingertip -- across the outer surface, the patent suggests. The imagined device is depicted as being around the size of a fingernail. 

There's no guarantee something like this would become a reality, but it comes as Apple ramps up its work in AR and VR. Last year, the company filed a patent for a mixed reality headset combining augmented and virtual reality. 

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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