updated 09:45 am EST, Thu December 8, 2011
Apple patent would provide 3D display, control
Apple has been working on its own, unique alternative to Kinect for Windows, a newly published patent application shows. Its design for a "three-dimensional imaging and display system" would have a device sit on the desk that would use one of multiple possible methods, such as tracking the reflection time or attenuation in light beams. It could let users get audible feedback on interacting with the environment, navigate a corresponding 3D desktop, and use head tracking for tasks like zooming in or scrolling.
Somewhat similar to Kinect, it could have a motorized system to keep the user clearly in view.
A 3D display could be part of the system. Apple's concept would use a projector to create the 3D display and would primarily be intended for desktops rather than notebooks, since it would need a flat wall or other similar surface. It could even mate with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod to give them 3D display technology they wouldn't have on their own.
With the patent only just filed in August, the patent is unlikely to lead to production hardware in the near future even if Apple intends to make the 3D control system, the display, or both real products. Patents don't necessarily translate to real products, but they do show that the company is at least considering the concept.
Apple ruled out touchscreens on systems like the MacBook Air when it unveiled the redesign last year because it didn't see users wanting to hold their hands up against an upright screen. A 3D motion control system could risk the same effect, although users wouldn't necessarily be as fatigued as they would by having to reach towards a screen. Microsoft has no reservations of the sort so far, since it plans to make Kinect for Windows available in commercial units in early 2012.