It takes a lot of bravery — or possibly even hubris — to explore a new form factor in the wearables space when smartwatches, fitness trackers, and smartglasses remain so utterly unproven on their own. Yet on Tuesday Nod Labs announced Nod, a sensor-packed, Bluetooth-connected ring that says, in effect, "We're coming for your fingers too."
No body part is safe in the modern wearables gold rush. But at least Nod performs a number of tricks that seem to offer legitimate utility in a world teeming with connected devices.
In essence, the ring is an input device, just like a mouse, keyboard, or trackpad. Slip it on your index finger. Wave your hand in the air. Swipe your thumb over its touch-control surface. All your gestures and motions can be used to control other consumer electronics.
"We want you to be able to address any pixel of the digital world in the real world," says Anush Elangovan, Nod Labs' founder and CEO.
Mastering TV keyboards from 10 feet away
The $150 gesture-control ring is packed with an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and temperature sensor. The ring's chunky business end responds to capacitive touch. Battery life is rated for 24 hours. There are 12 different band sizes, and Nod is waterproof, so you can wear it while washing the dishes or going for a swim.
OK, right. It's a gesture-control ring. But what can you actually do with it?
For starters, Nod hooks into the standard touch interface APIs built into all mobile devices. So if you connect the ring to your iPhone or Android handset, you can use hand and finger gestures to control your phone's music player — a nice convenience during a morning jog. Likewise, any smartphone or tablet content that you mirror to a large display can be controlled via Nod gestures. In effect, the airspace in front of your hand becomes one big touch surface.
Nod also integrates with a number of smart TVs, including recent LG models. Let's say you want to search for a show. Instead of using the D-pad on your remote control, you can use the ring to swipe-type on the TV's onscreen keyboard. Now text entry is a matter of finger gestures instead of physical button taps.
A world at your fingertips
You could also use Nod to advance through pages of a PDF document, or control presentation slides — because the ring is just another input device, remember? And in much more esoteric applications, Nod can be used to control smart appliances throughout your home. The ring won't begin shipping until fall, but there are already apps to control the Nest thermostat, and smart light bulbs from Philips and Tabu. Just point at the bulb, and use finger gestures to turn it on and adjust brightness.
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