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Nod is a gesture-control ring that aims to make your finger the ultimate input device

Jon Phillips | April 30, 2014
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."

There's also connectivity for GoPro cameras, a use case that makes Nod a bit more interesting. Think about it: When you're racing down a hill on your mountain bike, you'll want the most effortless interface possible for controlling your helmet cam. With Nod, a quick swipe gesture can initiate recording — and you never have to take your hands off your handlebars. Same goes for using GoPro's water sports products: Because Nod is waterproof, you can use it while surfing and diving.

Nod Labs is also introducing OpenSpatial, an API for gesture devices like the Nod. So there's nothing stopping, say, a garage door company from making its door opener compatible with the ring. Now, do you really want some neighborhood kid finding your ring, gesturing at your garage door, and traipsing inside your house? That shouldn't be a concern because Nod has two-factor authentication built in.

As Elangovan explains it, the ring's security system looks for two elements: proximity and unique gestures. To satisfy the first requirement, you need to be within Bluetooth range (30 feet) of whatever you want to use or unlock. To satisfy the second requirement, you need to volunteer a series of hand motions, finger taps or finger swipes.

"It's somewhat equal to having a bunch of keys," says Elangovan. "If you lose it, somebody could conceivably open your house, but two-factor authentication is what protects you."

But do you really need this?

Nod's authentication system also provides for a convenient way to unlock smartphones: Instead of dealing with gesture or code unlocks on the phone itself, you could simply execute a series of taps or swipes on your ring.

The gadget isn't without its question marks, though. It may provide a convenient approach to phone security, but it's definitely one of the bulkiest rings you'll ever slip on a finger. "The size is the best we can do right now, in terms of squeezing in 80 different discrete components," says Elangovan. "But over time, we do expect this to shrink."

Then there's the "Yes, but do I really need this?" factor. It looks fun. It seems useful. But is the world really screaming for new approaches to hardware control? At least two other companies must believe so, as Nod is actually the third gesture-control ring to be announced in 2014.

The "original" Bluetooth-connected ring is called Fin. It's meant to be worn on one's thumb, and was successfully funded by an Indiegogo campaign in March. Next up came Ring, a rather blingy index finger gadget that was successfully funded via a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month. Elangovan believes Nod's hardware build is more sophisticated than the competition, and benefits from the OpenSpatial API, which will spur third-party support for connected devices.

 

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