updated 11:59 am EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Could be used for image editing apps, other concepts
Apple has won a US patent for a form of 3D gesture control that could work with touchscreen devices. While the bulk of interactions would still be done via direct screen contact, a mix of touch and proximity sensors could be used to detect a person "pulling" a 3D shape out of a 2D one. Apple suggests using the technology in CAD and other image editing apps. Functions could, for instance, range from sculpting models to adjusting individual elements like textures, shadows and highlights.
The same control scheme could conceivably be carried over to other app types, such as musical instruments, or an overarching OS interface. Apple has yet to implement the technology in any of its products. Doing so would require the company to build extra sensors into its displays, adding to bulk of its designs and the cost of production.