Apple has been granted a patent for “Minority Report”-style 3D gesture controls, Apple Insider reports.
US Patent No. 8933876 relates to “three dimensional user interface session control.” What this amounts to is using a camera to track a user’s movements in three dimensions, then using that movement to control the on-screen user interface.
The diagrams included in the patent show the technology being used to control a desktop computer. But it could also be applied to Apple TV, or to Apple’s iOS devices. (Some of Samsung’s phones make use of similar “Air Gestures.”)
It’s important to note that Apple files thousands of patents, most of which never turn into actual products. Patent filings are often used to block rivals from producing products or to entangle them in distracting litigation. But in this instance, there is a precedent.
Gesture controls already exist in some form, but they have never really caught on. Microsoft uses them in its Xbox Kinect hardware, and Samsung smart TVs also incorporate them. As DVICE noted at the end of 2013, for Samsung “the reality was the feature just didn’t work very well.”
Apple has a history of introducing its own spin on existing products to great success. Just look at the iPad: prior to its launch, no one took the tablet market seriously. Last year, an estimated 235 million tablets were sold.
Apple is also investing in the field. In 2013, the Cupertino company bought the Israeli startup PrimeSense for a reported £360 million — one of its largest acquisitions at the time. PrimeSense had previously helped Microsoft develop its motion-sensing Kinect technology. And last month, one of PrimeSense’s patents was reassigned to Apple.