Apple has been granted yet another patent (number 9,449,758) for a “three dimensional user interface session control using depth sensors” that hints at a Mac user interface that utilizes gesture controls in much the same manner its Leap Motion’s Leap control device.
It could also apply to a television set should Apple ever reconsider plans to enter that market. The patent involves a method for presenting, on a computer display, an image of a keyboard comprising multiple keys, and receiving a sequence of three-dimensional (3D) maps including a hand of a user positioned in proximity to the display.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “An initial portion of the sequence of 3D maps is processed to detect a transverse gesture performed by a hand of a user positioned in proximity to the display, and a cursor is presented on the display at a position indicated by the transverse gesture. While presenting the cursor in proximity to the one of the multiple keys, one of the multiple keys is selected upon detecting a grab gesture followed by a pull gesture followed by a release gesture in a subsequent portion of the sequence of 3D maps.”
Apple has filed for/been granted various patents involving a gesture interface. Apple was granted a patent for a “lens array projector” that involves a projection-based 3D mapping solution. The result could be gesture recognition on Macs, Apple TVs and iOS devices akin to that of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect. Another 2014 patent filing for a “computer user interface system and method” could involve a Mac display with sensors built into all sides of the screen’s bezel.
The sensors would recognize hand gestures. The gestures could be used to scrolling, selecting, zooming, and more. In 2013 Apple was granted a patent for gesture control of multimedia editing applications.
In 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense, an Israeli maker of chips that enable three-dimensional (3D) machine vision. The chip's 3D sensors are designed to enable nature interaction between people and devices and between devices and their surroundings. Its machine vision products map out 3D environments and track movements of bodies, faces and facial expressions.
And in 2010 Apple scooped up all of the shares of a Swedish face recognition company called Polar Rose. The company had a service that allowed users to name people in their photos on photo sharing sites like Flickr and 23hq.com using their Facebook contacts. Using their facial recognition Polar Rose applied auto-tagging for users.
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.