What if your check-writing gesture didn't summon a waiter, it actually paid your bill? That's the distinctly odd promise of Ring, a project on Kickstarter that's barreling right past its $250,000 goal.
Ring is, like its name suggests, a ring: a chunky silver thing meant to be worn on your index finger. It's equipped with a slew of sensors, including Bluetooth, a touch sensor on the side, a vibration motor, several kinds of motion sensors (like an accelerometer), and an LED display (just a few dots, at the moment). It syncs with your phone, which interprets various air-scrawling movements and performs whatever action you want. That might be writing a text—it has its own way of writing the alphabet, sort of like the handwriting recognition tool on an old Palm Pilot, as well as lots of shortcuts to trigger different apps. You can also customize your air-writing symbols, or invent your own new ones. The app can network with all kinds of different gadgets, provided they connect to the Internet (this is also known as "the Internet of things").
Some examples: you touch the side of the ring, then draw a lamp, which triggers your phone to connect with your lamp. You draw a circle in the air to turn on the lamp and then increase its brightness by tracing your finger up and down. Pretty cool! Or you can make a check-mark signal in the air, which signals your phone to begin a payment app. Then draw the dollar amount you want to spend, and move your finger to the right, which indicates you're done writing, and it can send that amount.
Interfaces have long been on a path toward more natural or "invisible" interactions—that could be as simple as a touch screen rather than a button or as complex as a Microsoft Kinect using a depth sensor to map the precise movements of your joints. This ring seems in many ways like a natural evolution of that; it removes the hardware about as much as it possibly can be, instead relying on our natural inclination to communicate with our hands. That said, it does seem a bit clunky. In large part, it is going to be slower, more cumbersome, and more prone to error than simply taking out a phone or tablet and issuing these commands. The upside would be, it looks cool, and makes you feel like you're operating a brig on a spaceship.
Ring seems pretty far along in its development, having already shown at a TechCrunch event in Tokyo. It's also making tons of money; at the time of writing, it was well over $400,000 (from an initial asking price of $250,000) with an entire month left to attract funding on Kickstarter.