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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a patent today that demonstrates that Apple's probably not dragging its feet in the innovation department, after all. As reported by AppleInsider, the patent details a process that lets you manipulate digital objects with your hands above a touchscreen panel and not just by direct touch
This isn't something new; apparently the patent--simply called "Working with 3D Objects"--was filed way back in July of 2012. The process allows users to "generate and manipulate 3D objects using 3D gesture inputs" by combining elements of both 2D sensors and 3D gestures. The Apple device would first determine the location of your fingertips through sensors, and then work in sync with existing touchscreen receptors to let you "pull out" a 3D object from a 2D one. One example given was the ability to make a pyramid out of a triangle by using the process.
AppleInsider provided more details: "One interesting application described in the document is dubbed 'sculpting' mode. This embodiment treats the 3D object as if it were made of clay, or some other easily malleable material. Depending on finger movement, a user can make indentations, stretch, or squeeze the shape so that one area is made smaller and another larger. A 'pinch-twist-and-pull' gesture can also be used to break off a piece of the clay rendering."
Fascinating stuff, but not too different in theory from the Samsung Galaxy's "Air Gesture," as MacRumors points out. It is, however, significantly different in practice since the Galaxy merely uses light sensors to achieve the same effect. The technology also bears some resemblance to the Leap Motion Controller, although its status as a third-party peripheral places a number restrictions on its use. If Apple manages to make this work, though, we could be looking at a blueprint for a future iPad that relies on both touch and gesture controls.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.