Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Sep 2018

Your Ring Does What?

One of the ways in which Avanceé finds its bearings within conversations happens around the constellation of devices on the person. For example, at The Brigadoon Annapolis it was Snap’s Spectacles which took the lion’s share of attention. Though, it was the explaination of the other devices which gave grounding to what’s been happening.

One of those items, the NFC Ring, is commonly referred to as “where the business card lies.” However, the friction of getting it to some devices, specifically Apple’s iPhone devices, leaves the conversation lacking some of the punch that it could. That’s led to this. A rethinking of what a ring can do, and potentially some paths further into both fashion and cultural association.

There are a few other companies which have taken on a similar revisiting of the lowly ring:

  • Token is soon to release their ring which is an identity and transaction-oriented device. Their ring aims to replace keys (door, computer, etc.) and wallet (transit cards, work access, etc.).
  • Motiv has gone a similar route to Oūra and has an activity and heart rate monitoring device. This is a more direct replacement for wrist-style activity trackers, though some work has been done towards also promoting wellness nad recovery.
  • HelioS seen at CES 2017; this is a ring used to monitor sunlight that hits the skin by measuring the Vitamin D.
  • The Oura Ring is similar to the Motiv in that it tracks activity and wellness. However, its focus on sleep and recovery paints it into a similar-but-opposite coin to Motiv.

The NFC Ring is a much simpler approach. From a technical standpoint, it is just a few very low-powered near-field (RFID) antennas, encased within a ceramic casing. From there, any device which also has an NFC chip/antenna and the software to interpret can read what’s on the ring.

There are times at which this can be advantageous. As mentioned earlier, the NFC Ring can be utilized as a business card replacement. One of the two areas of the ring has a vCard containing basic information (name, email address, phone number) or other text formats (links to images, social media, forms, etc.) and it just needs to be read in order for the information to transfer. For Android devices, this is a usually a simple affair. Simply tap the ring to the back of the device, and there’s a prompt to download/go to the intended content. On Apple’s iPhone devices, it is a bit more involved (models since iPhone 7 can read NFC when a reader application is activated on the device). This “extended touch” can augment both the relational handshake which happens during a meeting, and also drive a former action (the business card exchange) into a novel, connected/digital experience.

When thinking about ways in which technologies can augment human conditions, these are some of the experiments Avanceé works towards. We think the advantage of such experiements allows for an exploration of triggers, behaviors, or even methods which might have a clearer meaning in their traditional context, but these technologies enable us to ask different questions about what’s being exchanged, how we wish to be augmented/reduced, or what other friction-points exist in digital spaces.

The failure points of some technologies which lie at the edges of human experiences. Yet, so does opportunity to reinvent what might seem to be conventional. It may very well be with wearables, automation, quantum, and other explorations that we’d find another definition of humanity that extends from what we’ve always done, to what we can do now. You might meet Avanceé, and instead of a card, it might simply be an exchange through rings. A ring which extends your ability touch, transfer, transact, read, and interact with the environment creates a much different context for jewelry than what we’ve traditionally assigned it. Such an edge is worth the rough edges to cut new roads.