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Apple patent points to in-air 3D gesture UI for Apple TV, Mac and beyond

15/01/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


One month after receiving a patent reassignment from Israel-based 3D mapping R&D firm PrimeSense, Apple on Tuesday was granted another property detailing possible software implementations to go along with previously outlined motion-sensing hardware. 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office assigned Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,933,876 for "Three dimensional user interface session control," or more plainly, a software UI for use with PrimeSense's motion-sensing hardware. 

In practice, the patented system incorporates a motion and depth-sensing optical sensor, outlined in a previously reassigned patent, with proprietary software to create a three-dimensional non-tactile user interface capable of recognizing and translating user gestures into computer commands. 

Specifically, the invention takes tracking, motion and depth input data from the camera/sensor setup and applies it to a 3D user interface. Users move their hand along multiple points, recognized in a 3D coordinate plane along X, Y and Z axes, to create gestures that are then processed by a host computer as app or system commands. In one example, a user can unlock the system UI with a rising gesture made along a vertical axis.

According to the patent, the device itself moves in between three distinct operating states, including any combination of locked/unlocked, tracked/not tracked and active/inactive. For example, if a sensing device is locked, it may also be ignoring user input — not tracking — to avoid inadvertent unlocking commands. In this scenario, the UI would also remain in an inactive state.

Users may alert the device to an incoming unlock command by performing a "focus gesture." These specialized movements engage the device, bringing it out of a not tracked/inactive state to locked/tracking/active. For example, a focus gesture could entail a "push" or "wave" of the hand that, when correctly recognized the sensor, enables motion tracking and activates the UI.

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