How does Ring actually work?



Based on the original article in Japanese

Ring is a wearable device that recently raised funds on Kickstarter. This is a project that received much attention when the team released its concept video in October of 2013. As soon as they launched the Kickstarter project, they quickly raised their target amount $250,000, and they are likely to reach much more by the end of their deadline 1.

While almost magical gadget has been much hyped, the details surrounding its features and specifications are not very well known. So I took a more careful look at the details they have disclosed, and based on that, I’d like to share a little about how Ring works. Please note that there are some specifications which not clearly written on the webpage and that some other specifications might be subject to later change.

According to Ring’s basic description, it has four main features:


The first feature allows you to control the connected devices, while the second recognizes your writing in the air as text data. Both involve the function of sending the data to external devices. A third feature involves the device recognizing payment information which you write in the air and then send to compatible systems.

The last of the four features is for receiving data. This is not explained in detail, but based on the description, it seems like the device sends you notifications for things like new mail or new app information through a flash of an LED light or by using the built-in vibration motor. Similar features have been already implemented to the devices like Sony’s Smartwatch. But I think Ring’s uniqueness lies in that it is controllable by gestures.

The background technology behind this gadget involves six components; battery, motion sensors, LED, touch sensor, bluetooth low energy (BLE) and vibration motor. We can expect data to be transmitted to devices using the BLE protocol, since the list of Ring-compatible devices are all ones that support BLE. As far as I can tell from the illustrations and concept video, Ring controls smartphone apps or electronic devices by pairing with a smartphone via Bluetooth.



Gesture writing system

Let’s take a look at how Ring can be used for gesture-based writing:


Ring has a touch sensor, which when touched indicates the beginning of the user’s gesture. The end of the gesture is marked when your finger position is held for a while. The characters which the device can recognize are limited to a specific “Ring Font” which requires you to write in a certain way, intended to improve character recognition. The concept is similar to the handwriting recognition system, Graffiti, which was used in Palm OS for PDAs.


But if the user’s actions are not processed quickly, it could potentially be quite stressful to enter text. At that point you might prefer to enter text yourself on your smartphone’s keyboard.

I don’t know whether glyphs like question marks, periods, or commas will be added to Ring Font later or not, but if they are, I wonder Ring will differentiate between similar marks like commas and periods.

Of course, to attract Japanese users Ring should support the Japanese writing components of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. I’d like to see Ring Font include those as well.

There was no information listed about Ring’s battery life, but the webpage says that a user can make 1000 gestures on one battery charge 2.


It would be pretty amazing if we could control our electronic devices just by moving our finger. But I understand it, a user will need to have a smartphone to use the Ring system. Instead of equipping Ring with all the hardware needed to execute the listed features, it looks like they’ve included a minimum set of components, and instead let your smartphone connect with electronic devices around your home.

We’d like to keep our eyes on not only the development progress of Ring but also the development of supporting devices and development by third-parties.

Ring has not hit the market yet, as it’s still under development. But to fully realize the vision for this kind of device, it is essential to have more support from app developers, third parties, and from users. As one of Ring’s Kickstarter backers, I’m really looking forward to having Ring on my finger in the near future.

  1. As we write this, Ring has raised more than $650,000 on Kickstarter with 25 days still left in the campaign. ↩

  2. Editor’s note: I asked the company for more info on their battery, but I haven’t heard a reply from them in a week. This question abruptly halted our email discussion. –RM ↩