Apple Receives Patent for 3D Gesture Control on Touchscreen Devices
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a newly-granted Apple patent (via AppleInsider) addressing a means for extending the multi-touch input present on Apple's touchscreen devices to the airspace above the screen, allowing for 3D manipulation of objects via 3D gesture inputs.
The patent, which was filed in July 2012 and is entitled "Working with 3D objects", describes a system that detects both 2D objects in a user interface and a 3D gesture input close to the device's surface, which then generates a 3D object that is presented in the user interface of the device.
According to the patent, the device detects the location of the user's fingers using a combination of both the capacitive touch sensors and the proximity sensors located in the display. The new technology would work in combination with the existing touchscreen controls on the device, and would allow users to lift their fingers off the screen in order to "pull out" a 3D shape from a 2D one (as the drawing in the patent shown above demonstrates), just like in most existing CAD programs.
Techniques and systems that support generating, modifying, and manipulating 3D objects using 3D gesture inputs are disclosed. For example, 3D objects can be generated based on 2D objects. A first user input identifying a 2D object presented in a user interface can be detected, and a second 3D gesture input that includes a movement in proximity to a surface can be detected. A 3D object can be generated based on the 2D object according to the first and second user inputs, and the 3D object can be presented in the user interface where the 3D object can be manipulated by the user.
Other uses for the new technology include the ability to use 3D gestures to sculpt using virtual clay-like materials and to change parameters such as shadows, brightness, textures and more. The patent may mark Apple's move to push the iPad more as a creative device which can be used in a variety of industries, including computer-aided design (CAD).
The idea of controlling a device using gestures is not new, however. The Samsung Galaxy S4 currently features a technology known as "Air Gesture", which allows the user to control their device using a number of simple gestures. But Apple's patent covers different technology -- whereas Samsung uses a light sensor to detect the user's gestures, Apple's technology would instead be embedded into the device's screen.