Apple None-Touch iPod Interface?

A recently published patent application from Apple entitled "Proximity detector in handheld device" describes an interesting technology for potential use in the next generation of iPod devices.

Readers should realize that while Apple continues to publish patents on technologies that never make it into shipping products, the concepts described in this patent were referenced by Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou in June 2006:

Apple is about to unveil the next generation of iPod, the best-selling music player in the U.S., using a "none-touch" concept, Gou said without elaborating

At the time the "none-touch" description was speculated to be an audio-interface, but this recent patent describes:

A method for initiating floating controls on an electronic device, the method comprising: detecting the presence of an object above and spaced away from a surface of the electronic device; and displaying a particular graphical user interface element on a display of the electronic device when the object is detected above the surface of the electronic device.

Essentially, as users point their fingers towards the screen, the appropriate controls would appear on the screen - such as a scroll wheel. Example images show the scroll wheel appearing and disappearing based on the user interaction. Meanwhile, the user's intentions are interpreted based on Gestures - which have previously been described.

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