Expo Notes: Keep everything wrapped around your finger with The Ring

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Using your smartphone to send text messages? How primitive. Receiving alerts on a wristwatch? How quaint. Manually turning your lights on and off like a cave-dwelling savage? Are you reading this article from a previous century?

That's the thinking behind the Ring, the latest device hoping to capitalize on America’s sudden interest in wearable tech. It arrived in San Francisco for Macworld iWorld after an appearance at South by Southwest earlier this month and just as it’s wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign.

the ring expo Photo: Philip Michaels

The Ring, on display at this week’s Macworld/iWorld show in San Francisco, is a remote control for your finger.

The Ring is exactly what it says on the label: a silvery ring you wear on your index finger. But unlike analog jewelry, this ring can connect over Bluetooth LE to an iOS or Android smartphone. (The developers told me they’ve also made it work with Google Glass and the Pebble smartwatch.) Once connected, you can preform a number of tasks just by waving your finger in the air like you just don’t care. And you better not care because waving a finger around like you’re Toscanini directing the NBC Symphony Orchestra is bound to get people looking in your direction.

For messages, just start using your Ring-equipped finger to trace letters in the air—Ring will recognize the text and compose a message for you. The Ring can also vibrate or flash a set of LED lights to let you know of incoming alerts. Flicking your finger can flick a switch to turn on appliances like TVs and lightbulbs that support Bluetooth connectivity. And developer Logbar even talks up mobile payments using GPS or iBeacon as a feature: make a checkmark gesture, disregard any odd looks from store clerks, and you’re good to go.

No word on what effect The Ring has over the free people of Middle-earth.

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The Ring will come with its own mobile app for iOS and Android in which you can customize your own gestures. Logbar is also putting out an SDK for developers to add Ring support.

The rechargeable battery inside The Ring is good for about 1,000 gestures before it needs to be recharged—that translates to two to three days of use. It does not appear that the battery is replaceable, though.

Logbar plans to offer its Ring in six sizes, which is good because the one on display at Macworld/iWorld had a hard time fitting on my stubby index finger. The Ring felt kind of bulky on my finger when I tried it on, but that’s coming from a man whose only jewelry is a wedding band. Someone who likes to bling it up a bit would likely appreciate The Ring more than a man who’s somewhat embarrassed that he just typed “bling it up.”

Logbar is still accepting Ring preorders for $165 until the close of the product’s Kickstarter campaign on April 4. After that, The Ring will have a price tag in the $185 to $190 range.

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