Californian startup Nod Labs has announced the commercial launch of its connected ring, designed to give users control over a range of electronic devices just by making natural finger movements.
Both established electronics equipment manufacturers and hardware startups have recently become interested in gesture recognition technologies for the use of the general consumer. As our primary ICT environment shifts from fixed to mobile, there is also a growing need for a different type of interface. Accordingly, a group of engineers based in Mountain View, California have been working to develop a new generation interface in the form of a finger-worn ring, called Nod. This Bluetooth-enabled gesture control device connects to your smartphone, allowing you to control your connected devices and transmit a number of other commands with just natural finger movements. There are already solutions in existence which enable you to send information using hand gestures, but the technological developments incorporated into the Nod gesture control ring really make it stand out from the crowd, attracting consumers and support from investors such as Menlo Ventures and Sequoia Capital. Nod Labs founder and CEO Anush Elagovan argues that the Nod ring “could possibly be the next computing revolution.”
Gesture recognition technology
The Nod device is basically a waterproof ring, with a metal rim around the inside and a plastic outer case which contains the transmission electronics. It comes with a charging cradle that doubles as a ring holder. Nod can be adjusted to 12 different sizes and offers about a full day of regular usage before it requires re-charging. One disadvantage however is that it is always on and can only be recharged with the cradle. The flat surface of the ring has a small capacitive touchscreen with buttons on each side that can be programmed for a certain number of functions which can then be controlled via iOS and Android apps. In addition to extending your smartphone functionality, the ring can also be connected to other smart devices, such as a smart TV or the Internet-connected equipment supplied by for example home automation company Nest. The ring can be used to type text, browse the web, answer a phone call, play a game on a tablet, turn on your smartphone camera, manipulate your TV controls, and other such things. If your device is not Bluetooth-enabled, you can connect the ring to your smartphone, which will then connect it via WiFi. You can pre-order Nod from 29 April onwards for $149, with shipping scheduled to begin in the fall.
Communicating with natural gestures
Enabling remote gesture control of devices is however not as simple as all that. In practice the real test is to ensure that the system works consistently in everyday situations for ordinary users. This is the main reason why companies that have previously tried to launch this type of technology on the market have not been successful. Samsung, for example, ran into insurmountable problems when it tried to incorporate a gesture control system into its smartphones. In the same vein, Leap Motion, which makes a computer hardware sensor device that supports hand and finger motions as input, has so far failed to win over consumers a year on from its commercial launch.Observers have pointed out that the main reason for Leap Motion’s failure is that the control gestures are simply not natural and the space within which the user can move is too limited. By contrast, Nod has been designed to enable people to use more natural gestures for sending commands. Anush Elagovan explains that his intention is to simplify gesture communication, allowing people to express themselves more fully in their movements. So the Nod ring’s highly receptive sensors, which make it far more sensitive than a computer mouse, give you the option of using micro-gestures. Nod Labs plans to provide an app ‘discovery portal’ for its hardware to help customers find suitable software to use with the connected ring, and envisages that Nod will be able eventually to interact with any connected device. The API is available for developers in open source.