Apple patent reveals intriguing 3D gesture user interface

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New Apple patents surface on a weekly basis. But we don’t publish many of them, unless they truly capture our imagination. One that showed up today showing a really cool method of controlling 3D images on screen using proximity based gestures got me a little excited. Think almost Minority Report, but not quite.

The US Patent Office revealed a patent, number 8,514,221 named ‘Working with 3D objects’. It essentially lets users manipulate 3D objects on screen by using 3-digit gestures. Starting off by touching the screen with three fingers and pinching, swiping and spinning while moving your hand away from the screen, the user would see whatever object is onscreen respond to those actions.

What’s particularly cool is that if there’s a 2D object on the screen, users can then transform it in to a 3D one by lifting their fingers away from the screen and “hovering” above the display for a set time and a triangle, for instance, would turn in to a prism.

13.08.20-3D_Gesture-3There are other modes to the control too, based on similar and more complicated gestures. Users can enter sculpting mode which enables you to manipulate a 3D object on screen as if it was a ball of clay. You can dent, stretch, scratch, or squeeze the shape by using a variety of pinching, pulling and twisting gestures.

AppleInsider has a fantastic article detailing all the various aspects of the patent.

What got me particularly excited about this was thinking about the possibilities of how to use such a system. One aspect would be apps like the solar system exploration apps. It could let you zoom in and out, plus spin images of various planets in a really engrossing experience. Or perhaps, a sculpting mode could be great for kids apps. Let’s assume Play Doh launched an app that allowed children to make and design shapes from virtual clay. None of the mess of real sculpting clay. Or, for interior designers and architects using apps for taking a more in-depth look at buildings, furnishing and layouts. It’s ideal.

Now, while I’m not all too fussed about air gestures, it would be interesting to see how this would work. It goes without saying that just because Apple patented the idea, doesn’t mean it’ll use it in any finished product.


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