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One smart ring to bind them all

  • A Bengaluru startup is creating India’s first smart ring, which acts as a voice assistant and fitness tracker, among other things
  • Aina, the AI powered ring, can also be used as a personalized remote for controlling smart home devices and unlocking devices

Aina is used by swiping the thumb over the index finger.
Aina is used by swiping the thumb over the index finger.

Bengaluru- and US-based product startup Lazy Co. wants you to wear the One Ring, which will perform practically every digital task in your life though it may fall short of making you the ruler of Middle Earth. Lazy Co.’s smart ring Aina, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered ring that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, can be used as a personalized remote for controlling smart home devices, booking cabs and unlocking devices, besides taking phone calls and talking to voice assistants. It can also act as a fitness and sleep tracker.

The company created a Kickstarter campaign in June, targeting $30,000 (around 21.4 lakh) to see how people were responding to the product, and got pre-orders worth $40,000 from eight countries (including India) in a little over a month. With manufacturing partners in Bengaluru and Taiwan, it plans to start shipping the ring from February 2020 ($249 on pre-order), and has.

Like most other wearable “smart" devices, smart rings have been in development for a few years, with some of the notable ones being the Oura ring and the Motiv ring, both of which focus on activity and sleep tracking, and the ORII ring, which acts as a smart voice-based assistant.

Apoorv Shankar, the young CEO and founder of Lazy Co., who completed his master’s in design from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 2017, says: “The biggest design challenge was making a small device like this with a tiny display capable of handling so many features with an experience that was better than using a smartphone. We handled this part by using AI to predict relevant short cuts for you, so you are only shown the things that you are most likely to use at any time. This also made Aina a much faster way (up to seven times) of handling such tasks as compared to a phone touchscreen."

According to Shankar, one of the biggest differences between a smart ring and a comparable wearable product like a smartwatch is that a ring like Aina is used by swiping the thumb over the index finger of the same hand, “one of the laziest motions in the human body".

Shankar adds that Aina lets a user take phone calls and talk to voice assistants privately, as opposed to a loudspeaker on a smartwatch. “Aina’s edge display is also designed to remain in your field of view when your hands are in a neutral position, so you can check for notifications even when you are writing, typing, driving or cooking without the need to rotate your wrist," says Shankar, who believes that once you get used to this, using a phone touchscreen to do the same tasks would feel tedious and time-consuming.

“Voice interfaces are very powerful but we still need a hardware device that lets us talk to these assistants, and wearables are a great solution for that. Wearables infused with AI and voice assistants, like the one we are building, are going to be the future of human-machine interaction," he believes. “We will be seeing many devices in the near future that will make use of the smartphone as a remote processor and the wearable acts as a more convenient input/output device."

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