updated 07:15 pm EDT, Tue September 13, 2011
Could lead to 'virtual' knobs, keyboards, more
Apple has, over the years, patented a number of ideas that dealt at least on some level with 3D interfaces, but today's patent for a projected "image area" where 3D manipulation could be realized emanating out of future mobile devices -- if practical for the company to implement -- could have major implications for future gaming, interfaces and other user interactions, going beyond the movement-sensing technologies of devices like Microsoft's Kinect, reports Patently Apple.
As described in the patent, a device such as an iPhone could use a pico projector-like light-emitting diode to create an "imaging space" where movements would be detected by a scanning beam, camera or combination. Visual feedback would cue the user as to the relationship of the hands to virtual objects, for example "grabbing" a virtual knob and adjusting it with the appropriate hand movements.
Possible uses include a projected keyboard that would detect input based on hand movement, even providing audible feedback; Kinect-like gaming for the Apple TV or just general 3D navigation such as "virtual swiping."
The patent is entirely credited to Apple employee and inventor Christoph Krah, who has also been credited on some of Apple's earlier patents regarding holographic imaging. As described by Patently Apple, the company is slowly -- "patent by patent" -- piecing together an advanced 3D visualization and gesturing system that goes considerably beyond the technology commonly seen today. Whether it will come to fruition in the near future -- or ever -- remains to be seen. [via Patently Apple]