Tim here, and file this one under very interesting: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a newly-granted Apple patent (via AppleInsider) addressing a means for extending the multi-touch input present on Apple's touchscreen devices to the airspace above the screen, allowing for 3D manipulation of objects via 3D gesture inputs.
It was filed in July of 2012 with the title "Working with 3D Objects" and it describes a system that detects both 2D objects in a user interface and a 3D gesture input close to the device's surface, which then generates a 3D object that is presented in the user interface of the device.
The patent reveals that the device detects the location of a user's fingers using a combination of proximity sensors located on the display and capacitive touch sensors. No need to worry because the technology also works in combination with existing touchscreen controls. The new tech will allow users to lift their fingers off the screen and "pull out" a 3D shape from the 2D image. This is very similar to existing CAD (computer-aided design) programs.
Techniques and systems that support generating, modifying, and manipulating 3D objects using 3D gesture inputs are disclosed. For example, 3D objects can be generated based on 2D objects. A first user input identifying a 2D object presented in a user interface can be detected, and a second 3D gesture input that includes a movement in proximity to a surface can be detected. A 3D object can be generated based on the 2D object according to the first and second user inputs, and the 3D object can be presented in the user interface where the 3D object can be manipulated by the user.