Apple Patent Covers In-Air Gesturing for Macs & iDevices as Google, Samsung and Microsoft race to bring this to Market
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple relating to Apple's 3D TrueDepth camera used to capture in-air hand gesture controls. Apple is now in race with Google, Samsung and Microsoft to bring this feature to market on a variety of devices from Notebooks to VR headsets.
In late December 2018 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple could be onboard the 2019 3D Camera trend for Smartphones that will introduce In-Air Gesture Controls." The report covered a new 3D camera module from Sony that provided the capability of adding in-air gestures controls for apps and games as noted in the photo below.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic side view of a depth-sensing apparatus (#20) used to generate depth maps of a scene including an object #22 which is a user's in-air command.
To generate the depth map, an illumination assembly (#24) directs pulses of light towards the hand and an imaging assembly measures the ToF (Time of Flight) of the photons reflected from the hand. The term "light" refers to optical radiation, which may be in any of the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet ranges.
The illumination assembly #24 typically comprises a pulsed laser #28, which emits short pulses of light, with pulse duration in the nanosecond range and repetition frequency in the range of 0.5-50 MHz, for example.
Projection optics #30 direct the light towards the hand. Alternatively, other pulse durations and repetition frequencies may be used, depending on application requirements.
It should be noted that patent FIG. 1 is shown working with a Mac, though technically it could be for an iDevice as well.
In-Air gesturing is a feature that Microsoft, Google and Samsung are working on for different applications. Samsung is working on in-air gesturing working with a future HMD as presented below. Microsoft was just granted a patent for such a feature on Tuesday under patent #10,242,255.
Apple's patent application that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was originally filed back in Q4 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Apple has been working on this technology for years, especially after acquiring Israeli firm PrimeSense that was behind the TrueDepth camera. A few other patents as examples of their work in this field could be found here: 01, 02 (for Apple TV) 03 and 04 for future Macs. One of the three inventors noted on Apple's patent is from PrimeSense in Israel.
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