Talk to Your Hand – Voice-enabled Smart Rings are Coming!

ORII Ring Photo 1200x630 Mikko Nurmimaki

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by Mikko Nurmimaki

Digital voice tech is quickly becoming ubiquitous – you can already find it empowering customer service chatbots, enabling us to control virtual assistants in homes, smartphones, and cars – and now, voice tech is embedded into Smart Rings too! You might ask yourself, what can I do with a voice-enabled Smart Ring, how do they work, and how’s this tech fitting inside a ring? This blog answers these questions!

What are Voice-enabled Smart Rings?

Compared to smartwatches and wristbands, Smart Rings are a reasonably new and limited wearable device segment. Despite this, there are already several Smart Ring products available for various use-cases.

Wellness and fitness rings help the user to monitor sleep, activity, and stress level. There are Smart Ring products, which function as a concealed panic button, provide smartphone app notifications on the finger, and enable contactless payments at retail outlets.

So, what are the voice tech-enabled Smart Rings doing for the user? A handful of such devices have been launched for the public. Some of those products, such as Xenxo S-Ring are still in the crowdfunding stage. However, there are two products available for purchases – Amazon Echo Loop and ORII Ring.

Here is a detailed run-down of how the voice technology in these two exciting gadgets works!

Amazon Echo Loop – Phone calls and voice control for a virtual assistant

Amazon’s Echo Loop Smart Ring conceals a tiny microprocessor, complete digital signal processing (DSP) chipset, speaker, and two microphones inside its titanium-shielded embodiment.

With this, Echo Loop enables you to give voice commands to control Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant ecosystem, as well as Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant. Besides, the embedded voice tech also allows for phone calls.

The ring relies on a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone with Alexa App to do all this. Echo Loop doesn’t connect to Alexa directly but through your smartphone’s internet connection or WiFi.

How to ‘Voice-control’ a virtual assistant with Echo Loop?

Unlike Amazon’s other Echo products, such as Echo Show 5, Echo Loop is not listening for the wake word ‘Alexa’ You can start the listening mode by pressing the action button on the ring body. With one short press, Alexa wakes up. A long press wakes up Google Assistant or Apple Siri, depending on whether you have an Android phone or iPhone. The ring vibrates to indicate when the virtual assistant starts to listen.

One of the two microphones inside Echo Loop records the voice commands. The embedded speaker plays out the virtual assistant’s responses. The ring must be placed close to the ear to hear properly.

Making phone calls with Echo Loop

With its voice tech, Echo Loop also allows you to call by your smartphone. By pressing the action button on the ring twice, you can speed-dial to one person that has been pre-defined on the Alexa app. Additionally, you can make a call to any contact stored on the smartphone by controlling the phone’s assistant via voice commands. To conduct the calls, Echo Loop functions as a phone speaker and microphone.

ORII Ring – Transmits Voice via Bone-conduction

With ORII Smart Ring, you can make phone calls and control a voice assistant. It works as a remote microphone and loudspeaker for a smartphone. So far, this sounds a lot like Amazon’s Echo Loop, doesn’t it? However, here comes the unique part of ORII – it uses bone conductivity technology to carry the voice audio between the ring and ear!

The bone conduction transducer electronics inside the ring convert electrical signals into vibrations that travel through bones in your finger, directly into the inner ear, bypassing the eardrums. This is why bone conduction, when appropriately applied, can offer adequate audio quality even in noisy environments. According to ORII, it uses a smaller actuator and lower power compared to other bone-conduction devices, which minimizes sound leakage.

Bone-conduction is commonly used in hearing aid devices, professional communication equipment, and other kinds of headsets. The Google Glass device (yes, sounds sooo 2013) used bone conduction technology to transmit information in audio format to the user through a transducer placed just beside the user’s ear.

Inside a voice-enabled Smart Ring

One might think that squeezing in voice technology into a cramped, ultra-slim, and fully-rounded embodiment of a Smart Ring is a complicated engineering endeavor. Well, it surely isn’t easy, but the rapidly evolving chipsets and Systems on Chip (SOC) help product developers in the task.

There are chipsets and SOCs in the market, which integrate a significant share of the required functionality into a footprint of, say, 25 square millimeters (mm2). A chipset suitable for a voice-enabled ring can integrate functionality for wireless connectivity, microprocessor, memory, digital signal processing, and external interfaces for e.g., battery and antenna.

This, of course, is not enough for a Smart Ring to work – a battery, antenna, speaker, microphone, and many sensors among the other functionalities will be needed too.

Here is an example chipset used in Amazon’s Echo Loop

Amazon Echo Loop ring is built around Realtek’s RTL8763BO System on Chip. It includes ARM’s 32-bit Cortex-M4F microprocessor, a memory chip, Tensilica HiFi-mini compatible 24-bit digital signal processing (DSP) unit, audio codecs, power management unit, analog-to-digital converter (ADC), Bluetooth radio transceiver, and I/O controller. This, and a lot more is packaged into a tiny SOC with a footprint of 5×5 mm – small enough to be housed in a Smart Ring such as Echo Loop.

In Conclusion

Voice is the most natural way of communicating for us. Voice commands are also handy for controlling devices, chatbots, and virtual assistants. Thus, it’s only logical that voice tech is gradually making inroads into the digital world and devices surrounding us – including Smart Rings. Voice-enabled Smart Rings are coming – get ready to talk to your hand!

About the author

Mikko Nurmimaki 400x400 Mikko Nurmimaki
Mikko Nurmimaki

Mikko Nurmimaki is a technology marketing and PR specialist with 15 years of experience from world-class brands such as Nokia, Ericsson, Spirent, and more. Currently, his company Grip Agency provides marketing and PR services for international tech companies. Mikko is also the editor of the Smart Ring News portal.

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