Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Smart rings still have a long way to go

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Smartwatches have stolen the spotlight from phones this fall, but there’s another wearable form factor waiting in the wings: smart rings. korean outlet naver recently reported that Samsung has filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for its own smart ring, complete with ECG and smart home control. And while it would be great if Samsung opens its doors next fall with a new wearable, the reality is that it will be a long time before this kind of futuristic smart ring is ready for prime time.

It’s easy to see why smart rings are an attractive prospect. Compared to smartwatches, they are more discreet, fingers are better for heart rate measurement, and rings are much more comfortable to wear 24/7. For that reason, they would make ideal health trackers. But they also pose greater technical and technical challenges than a smartwatch, because they so damn small.

Take the popular Oura Ring, which I’ll bet is the only smart consumer ring you’ve probably heard of. Oura recently launched a perfectly round Horizon ring. It looks nice – I have one on my finger now – but it isn’t to do slightly different from the Gen 3. It’s easy to brush off this update as a cosmetic change. I did it when I first heard the news. But when I sat down with Oura CEO Tom Hale a few weeks ago, he explained that a perfect round smart ring is an incredible technical challenge. It turns out it’s hard to get a battery that’s at the same time small enough to fit in a ring while being thin and flexible enough to hold a curved shape. That’s why most smart rings that come on the market have a flat edge somewhere in the design.

A collection of five Oura smart rings are arranged on concrete pedestals of different heights.  There is a shiny gold ring, a rose gold ring, a silver in the middle, a gunmetal gray and a matte black.

It is round. That’s the innovation, and I mean that without sarcasm.
Image: Oura

That’s where we are with smart consumer rings. True hardware innovation is being able to make something completely round. Meanwhile, the software-based breakthroughs are not unique to the smart ring. Nowadays, you can find everything that follows the Oura Ring on a smartwatch. (While Oura’s credit, its recovery tracking approach is one of the best.)

I wouldn’t be shocked if Samsung, Apple or even Google could do that create an EKG-enabled smart ring. There is one that already does it called the Prevention Circul Plus. I’m most skeptical about the “smarter” features like controlling your TV, delivering notifications, or interacting with your phone.

Previously, smart rings tried to do more. ringly was a $200 fashionable ring that vibrated and lit up when you got a notification, except it didn’t have a screen, so you had to remember which combination of buzz and lights meant which. It also wouldn’t work if you’re out of Bluetooth range. Meanwhile, the Motif Ring started as a simple fitness tracker, but then added two-factor biometric authentication. l never got it to work. The thing is, smart rings are at their “best” when they’re a little simple.

Smart rings are at their “best” when they are a little simple

I’d say the Oura Ring is the one that sticks around for so long because it’s a purposeful gadget. It is a recovery tracker and does nothing but collect health data from your finger. Oura has done a lot to contextualize that data. It’s been smart to work with other health and fitness apps and researchers to make the data valuable. But put bluntly, it’s a $300 data collector that now comes with a $6 monthly subscription. I quite like my Oura Ring, but if you own one, you’re essentially paying a premium for a passive device that lets you rarely interact.

That’s the paradox. As current technology stands, smart rings don’t work well outside of discreet, passive health tracking. That’s great for clinical research, because non-invasive, continuous data can potentially unlock a lot of insights. In this case, there are some intriguing smart ring ideas thrown around by startups. Ultrahuman is working on a smart ring to ‘hack’ your metabolism; Movano Is Working To Get FDA Approval For A Ring To Help Control Chronic Disease; and Happy Health just got a bunch of money for a ring to measure mental health.

A smartwatch can do everything a smart ring can – and much, much more

But as beautiful as some of these ideas are, I’d say these use cases are more interesting to researchers than consumers. In these inflationary times, consumers want value for money, and a smartwatch can do everything a smart ring can – and much, much more.

Ultimately, patents are no guarantee that a company will release a particular product. All this patent really tells us that Samsung has been fooling around with the idea of ​​a smart ring and wants to deter rivals if it succeeds in making a winning product. Unless Samsung can come up with a great reason why consumers might even want a “Galaxy Ring” — and certainly control a TV is not it – my guess is this is a patent that won’t see the light of day for a long time. As ever.

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