One ring controls all

New Israeli device unites convenience of touch screen with functionality of mouse.

RINGBOW521 (photo credit: Ringbow)
(photo credit: Ringbow)
More and more devices today are controlled not by the push of a button but by touchscreens.
Smartphones, tablets or music players all share the same user interface: you slide your finger across a screen and then tap an on-screen icon to perform the action. Israeli start-up Ringbow ( aims to change all that by introducing a new control device in the shape of a ring, which the company’s founders say will move the touchscreen experience in an entirely new direction.
The company says Ringbow makes touch screen interaction far more fluent and productive, eliminating the need to actually display menus and other virtual elements, such as toolbars and dialog boxes.
The ring – the first device so far produced that enhances touchscreen performance – offers several unique features, including remote control powered by Bluetooth.
A thumb control enables a user to scroll through a menu by rolling the ring either up or down with their thumb. This allows for more screen area, which would otherwise be taken up by menus and option icons, to be dedicated to display instead. It also enables users to hold tablets and similar devices in a more steady manner, using both hands.
Tapping the screen is equivalent to a left-click on a mouse. Tapping the screen with the ringbutton depressed produces a right-click – not previously available on touchscreens. The ring can also be used to perform two interface interactions simultaneously. This can be especially attractive for gamers, since it can, for example, enable a user to move a character in a first-person shooter game while simultaneously firing at a target. Tablet gaming is predicted by many to be the next big thing.
The basic concept was dreamed up by Ringbow co-founder Saar Shai when he was listening to music on his iPod Classic a few years ago. The iPod was in his backpack and he couldn’t reach it. The thought came to him that it would be useful to control the iPod’s wheelshaper controller by remote control via a ring on a finger. He played with this idea in his mind, and when Apple launched the first iPhone, Saar immediately recognized the potential of a finger-mounted controller.
“Ringbow communicates via Bluetooth, meaning it can be paired with any Bluetooth device,” says Efrat Barit, CEO and co-founder of the company. “This means that the ring can be used to control menus not only on computers, tablets or smartphones but also touchscreens in cars, where enabling users to scroll through a menu without looking directly at the screen is especially important.”
“Ringbow is designed as a clip and is made of materials that enhance the grip of the finger,” she says. If there are several users with Ringbow rings sharing the same touchscreen, the rings recognize each other, allowing multiple players to participate in the same game on one tablet. Barit says that as interaction moves from touch to motion controls, such as the Microsoft Kinect, a finger-worn tool would be a natural complement. Yaron Samid, an Internet entrepreneur and the man behind TechAviv, a site that promotes Israeli start-ups, tells The Report that the ring is a “very cool concept” but he has some doubts regarding its functionality.
“I’m not sure how it works in practice,” he says.
However, Samid is so impressed with the idea he has invited Ringbow to demonstrate the product in front of 200 fellow start-up founders and investors in April.