Apple has begun to transfer intellectual property over from PrimeSense, the Israeli firm it acquired last year. The company was a key partner to Microsoft, which licensed its tech to create the Kinect 3D motion sensing camera, which allows users to interact with Xbox and PC via gesture control. This first patent being reassigned from PrimeSense to Apple (via AppleInsider) covers some of the basics around the light projection and optical components of a 3D mapping sensor system.
The patent describes in detail the optical projection system required to emit a light pattern on objects, which is then recorded as it falls across objects in 3D space. The resulting pattern distortion can be interpreted by an optical sensor, and then used to map 3D space based on the angle and degree of distortion. The pattern is highly sensitive to variation, as it first determines a baseline against which to compare.
In the end it could be used to map a body’s movements in real-time in an open environment like a living room, like the Kinect. The potential applications range from adding gesture control to the Apple TV, to even possibly someone integrating 3D gestures to iOS devices, as some of the tech described in the patent includes alternative constructions of the system that would save space for use in more compact devices.
Apple may not be planning any imminent devices that make use of this tech, but the PrimeSense acquisition definitely looked like something that could have observable impact to its product roadmap. The Apple TV is also long overdue for a refresh, so adding a new control interface might help Apple set the new generation apart from previous devices, and capitalize on the consistent growth of this category with splashy new features.