Google patent sends ring signals to Project Glass

May 19, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Image from USPTO.

( -- Google's September 2011 patent that was filed for a wearable display device was granted this week, which suggests that its envisioned heads-up display device can be controlled by infrared markers in the form of devices worn on the hands, such as fake fingernails or rings. The patent says, “A wearable marker may take the form of a ring, a bracelet, an artificial fingernail configured to be affixed to a fingernail, a decal configured to be affixed to a fingernail, or a glove, among other possible wearable items."

The popular translation of this can be worded as something like Google has revealed how its Project Glass video glasses will actually work, and the answer is with hand gestures via rings, fake nails, or some sort of hand tattoo. A certain gesture pattern could launch an application or open a document.

According to the patent, the reflective infrared identifier that is placed on a user’s hand is able to track and identify the user’s gestures. The head-mounted display and IR camera device can function together. The infrared camera is integrated into the user’s head display to track the image. The camera would pick up radiation reflected from the marker, as a point of reference for user control. IR reflective material could be an IR reflective paint, and an IR absorptive material could be an IR absorptive paint.

The patent provides insight into yet another possibility in wearable computer interfaces. Some users may feel self-conscious about talking aloud in public, with voice-based control systems, whereas control gestures in the form of head-nods may also look odd to passers-by. As for the hand-gesture idea, one blogger suggested it may be no-less conspicuous as if one was conducting music, without the music. Another reactive line of discussion this week is whether or not the patent means anything more than a patent. Most suggestions point to the patent as part of a grand scheme of project development for Google’s glasses.

Google announced Project Glass last month, where a special research team is testing prototypes outside the office. Closer details for this “Augmented Reality system,” or a smartphone-free smartphone in the form of video glasses, are not to be had, as the project is in its early stage. The patent revealed earlier this week, though, suggests that ’s “wearable marker for passive interaction” is on the roadmap as one among other input solutions for Project Glass.

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More information: Patent online:

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User comments : 8

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2.1 / 5 (7) May 19, 2012
another obvious extension of current technology that does NOT deserve a patent
3 / 5 (1) May 19, 2012
Come on:( Anyone head of the 'sixth sense'. And I bet those different coloured rubberbands has a different IR signature. All this shit does is just prohibit anyone using longer than 300um light to determine the spatial position of anything while wearing goggles.

3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2012
It's a defensive patent, that's all. Google has never used a patent as an offensive tool.
2.1 / 5 (7) May 20, 2012
Patents based on "Prior Art" are often found invalid when challenged as they are typically "evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary".

Patents based on physical markers used to locate positions in space have been granted. They have been used by film makers to translate the physical position of actors (i.e. "Avatar") for computers to render scenes around the actor.

Microsoft's Kinect can extrapolate physical features such as arm and leg positions, all major joints, and use that to interpret physical gestures in order to perform an action, without reflective sensors placed on the body.

That someone in the patent office thinks this is unique and not based on prior art shows that
2.1 / 5 (7) May 20, 2012
... continued ....

That someone in the patent office thinks this is unique and not based on prior art shows that little research is done in the patent office to validate the claims of the "inventor".
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2012
Exactly, k m.
In fact I recently had to look up some patents and did a small amount of research and was appalled by the sheer volume of seemingly utter rubbish that is deemed worthy of a patent.

I bet that a significant proportion would not stand up in a court of law...
1 / 5 (3) May 21, 2012
I'll be interested when they go into commercial production. Until then, I'll keep my eye on this line of research.
not rated yet May 22, 2012
I think Google is filing these patents to make it harder for competing companies like Apple to file more frivolous lawsuits.

It's common practice these days... Abuse the legal system to set back your competitors. The only winners are the lawyers laughing their way to the bank.

The patent system in it's current form needs to be dismantled. Currently its hindering technological progress. It's used as a tool to bully startup companies. Copyright should be sufficient for most of the important stuff.

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