They re-invented the personal computer. Then, they re-invented the portable music player. Next, it was the mobile phone… then the tablet… and most recently, the watch.

But Apple isn’t done. And this time, it’s the finger they’re re-inventing.

Errr… sorta. According to a new patent they filed last month, Apple is apparently preparing for a new line of “finger devices”. Leaked patent illustrations show a theoretical new device that’s small enough to fit on your fingernail… yet powerful enough to transform your digits into high-tech digital communication tools.

Image source: CB Insights

The devices, when created, will be full of sensors – including optical, electric and pressure sensors – that allow you to interact with smart devices, along with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) programs… in real-time.

This is similar in concept to the Apple Watch (and other wearable smart devices), which already allow us to “digitally interact” with the real world (e.g. making payments by scanning our watch, or answering a call remotely).

The finger device essentially turns your hand into a remote control for any compatible smart device – including virtual screens (just like a sci-fi film).

Image source: Vox (via YouTube)

Imagine turning down the volume on your TV with a wave of the hand – or playing VR video games without a controller – or working from a “virtual laptop” being projected onto your lap (we have to assume that’s coming next).

It’s not completely clear how these devices will work yet, but the patent mentions utilizing motion-sensing technology in combination with tracking physical movements, such as muscle contractions. The device can even provide “feedback” – known as “haptic output” – that makes you feel like you’re really touching something, even though it’s a virtual image.

Imagine typing on a 3D-projected keyboard. Now, imagine that the keyboard also “clicks” with each key you “press”. That’s just one example of what this technology can theoretically do.

So, when’s it coming? Well, that’s not clear – this is just a patent application, and it was filed just a few weeks ago. It may be some time before we see the iFinger (please, please, please do not call it that) released to the public. We’ll keep our finger close to the pulse of this development, though. If anything comes up, we’ll make sure you’re first to know!