A just granted Apple patent could hint at a gesture-based interface for future Macs, much like the system Tom Cruise used in Minority Report. The patent uses technology from PrimeSense—a company Apple bought in 2013.
The patent describes a system where user’s hand, arm, and facial movement is tracked and translated into on-screen actions. The filing states in part,
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.
As cool as the Minority Report interface was, it also involved a lot of motion, almost to the point of interpretive dance. That doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to interact with our computers, so it’s possible Apple has something more limited—or at least subtle—in mind for the patent.
It’s possible Apple could combine the same Face ID scanning we already have on the iPhone X for passcodes and purchase authentication with facial tracking. If Apple heads down that path we could see a feature I’ve long wanted on the Mac: make the window I’m looking at active so I don’t need to Command-Tab or click to switch windows.
Apple often patents technologies that doesn’t find its way into shipping products, and that could be the case here. On the other hand, this would be a clever way to use our hands and faces to control our Macs without succumbing to a true touch screen interface.
[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up]