Apple has been granted another patent (number 20170185161) for a “gesture-based user interface” that hints at gesture controls for Macs. This one is dubbed “three dimensional user interface session using depth sensors.”
In the patent filing, Apple notes that many different types of user interface devices and methods are currently available, including keyboards, mice, joysticks and touchscreens. Computer interfaces based on three-dimensional (3D) sensing of parts of the user’s body have also been proposed.
Apple is looking into a gesture recognition system using depth-perceptive sensors. A 3D sensor provides position information, which is used to identify gestures created by a body part of interest. The gestures are recognized based on a shape of a body part and its position and orientation over an interval. The gesture is classified for determining an input into a Mac.
Here’s Apple summary of the invention: “A method, including receiving, by a computer executing a non-tactile three dimensional (3D) user interface, a set of multiple 3D coordinates representing a gesture by a hand positioned within a field of view of a sensing device coupled to the computer, the gesture including a first motion in a first direction along a selected axis in space, followed by a second motion in a second direction, opposite to the first direction, along the selected axis. Upon detecting completion of the gesture, the non-tactile 3D user interface is transitioned from a first state to a second state.”
Apple has been granted other patents — including 20170185161, 94176706, and 9,449,758 — for gesture-based interfaces.
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.