"Apple Socks" with touch simulation patented for future AR/VR devices
Apple socks—who'd have thought it? AppleInsider has brought to our attention yet another of Apple's legendary patents approved by the US Patent & Trademark Office. We didn't think last week's Apple Ring patent could be topped out so quickly, but it would seem Apple is trying to extend its ecosystem to our wardrobes with sensor-fitted footwear.
The patent details a variety of sock-like concepts, "foot-shaped support structures with components such as magnets" which, in a hybrid system, could include "a foot platform components with corresponding electromagnets [...] on which a user may stand."
The hybrid concept where both sock and platform have fittings
The purpose of these socks would be to provide touch simulation enhancing a user's AR or VR experience. Haptic feedback is when technology artificially conveys the sensation of touch to a user through vibration or other means. iPhones already feature haptic feedback (using what Apple calls a Taptic Engine) through the ability to have your phone vibrate at certain UI interactions, or when soft keys are tapped.
Because your feet contain an extremely high concentration of nerve endings, the presence of haptic feedback on specially designed footwear could convey a multitude of sensations to its wearer and completely change a VR experience. The sensors could simulate a variety of surfaces, as well as provide force feedback patterns to simulate impact, depending on the virtual environment you're immersed in.
The patent also says that the socks' functionality may connect to and be controlled by devices such as smartphones, computers, and "eyeglasses or other head-mounted equipment worn on a user's head." In other words, if we aren't reaching too far, this may have something to do with Apple's upcoming VR/AR line of products, such as next year's rumored VR Headset and the Apple Glass projected for 2025. We might also have a science fiction-y Apple Lens coming in 2030 or later, according to top Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, but maybe that's still a little too far to get excited about.