Apple granted major patent for an advanced distance-sensing user interface

“The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 41 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple.

“In this particular report we cover a major win for an advanced sensor-based user interface that could apply to a future iPhone, desktop display/monitor or even a television,” Purcher reports. “The invention, if implemented, would enable a user to interact with a display at quite a distance. In a desktop application, as a user moves physically away from their desktop, the system will automatically switch from mouse controls to that of hand gesturing controls if the user so choses to do so.”

Purcher reports, “In theory, if applied to a TV scenario, the user would be able to use hand gesturing to control TV functionality without a remote. With new 3D depth cameras coming to market in late 2014, Apple may be able to further fine-tune such a unique system.”

More info, and Apple’s patent application illustrations, in the full article here.

11 Comments

      1. I saw a Samsung advert very recently with some dude flicking channels with his hands. It was not a concept video, it is a shipping product Haven’t used it myself and I’m dubious about anything Samsung. Apple’s implementation will definitely be better (if it happens).

    1. Remember, Samdung looks at patents ‘applied for’ by other companies (but mainly Apple) and starts to implement the scheme in some existing product line. Just to give the impression that ‘they had the idea long ago’. Later, when the patent is granted people say things like….”Samsung already has this…”. If they already had this they would have ‘applied’ for the patent and been ‘granted’ it. But they haven’t. Apple has.

      1. Theoretically, companies like Apple establish their ‘prior art’ when they apply for a patent, in preparation for patent trolls and parasites (hello Samsung!). They can then wave that around in the faces of people/companies that intend upon suing them, challenging the scum to come up with anything prior to their established prior art date. Obviously, in this theoretically scenario of ScamScum ripping off Apple 3D gesture sensing tech, Apple can shoot them down.

        However, as ScunkScent has proven, in the current idiotic court system environment, robbery of someone else’s tech can pay off handsomely in the short term. DO YA HEAR THAT JUDGE KOH?! HUH???? DO YA?!!!!

    2. I’ve used the Samsung TV with the motion control.

      It simply does not meet the ease-of-use and increased functionality that customers gravitate towards in the mass market.

    3. First-to-market is rarely best to market over time. Tech gets refined. New and better methods are discovered. The quality improves.

      Knowing Samsung, they implemented hardly-adequate tech with ‘good-enough’ quality. I cannot imagine Samsung being perfectionists about anything. Whereas i can ONLY imagine Apple being perfectionists about anything. That’s a canyon of difference between the two companies.

      1. I often agree. The first mover advantage has served Apple well with a number of its key products, such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. While it can be fairly said that Apple did not specifically create the first of in these product categories, Apple made sure that when it launched its response, that anything prior to that was immediately forgotten – and for good reason. Apple has often redefined product categories, as the company has with the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

        In addition, companies often patent ideas to protect their turf in an increasingly nasty patent range war. It is likely that Apple has been working on motion and distance-sensing user interfaces for quite some time, and other companies, including Microsoft (Kinect), Samsung with their TV and recently, Leap Motion have done this prior to Apple in all honesty. But if Apple can build a better solution than its competition, great results could follow.

        Certainly, gesture-based interfaces will be important for TVs and other devices going forward. If you’re like me, you are thoroughly disgusted with current TV controllers. Quite simply, they suck. Hard. All of them. I could only hope that Apple would come up with a gesture based interface along with a great screen interface to finally make controlling a TV an easy process. Perhaps Steve Jobs could have been referring to this as well when he told Walter Isaacson that he had cracked the problem of TV. Time will tell.

        Tomorrow, Samsung will introduce its take at a smart watch. I saw my first photos of it, and instead of being fearful, I came away badly and thankfully disappointed. It was just plain clunky, basically a FitBit with a watch. Lacking anything to copy, it appears that Samsung floundered badly. Bada II, perhaps?

        That said, wearable intelligent devices will be a big thing in the coming years, a large potential market. Google, Microsoft and if rumors are correct, Apple are all in a space race to come up with the best. Here, a first mover advantage could be critical, given the large user acceptance of Android. We can only hope that Apple has watches in mind both for men and women, and perhaps a health/fitness band as well. I use a FitBit, and while it is in many ways elementary, its simple interface, comfort on my wrist and ease of use sold me. They kept it simple, and it’s rewarding them.

        Fingers crossed. Hands waving. My hopes are that Apple will win both in the gym, on my bike and in the living room. If the company can deliver with the simplicity, style and reliability for which it is known, Apple could win these markets even if it does not have the first mover advantage.

  1. I haven’t tried the Samsung TV, but I am pretty sure I’ve seen a video of it. The problem I see is that with 100+ channels that’s a lot of waving to move up and down the list. You need to be able to get into the guide and scan quickly. Don’t know if the Samsung system allows this. Also, with TV, does their gesturing operate throughout items there such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. Ultimately there needs to be a universal scheme for controlling what is displayed on the screen and how it is heard.

    1. YouTube has some ‘Smart TV” videos. It’s hard, so far, to separate the marketing-optimized-smoke-and-mirrors crap from actual IRL demonstrations. But this video appears to summarize what Samsung gestures can do and points out that you may have to buy your own separate camera for functionality:

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