Apple Patent Hints At Iron Man Style CAD Interface

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Iron Man hologram

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has published an Apple patent for a method of generating and manipulating a 3D object on a computing device, with the process controlled by special gestures made above a touchscreen's surface. Combined with a hologram display, the system could work much like Tony Stark's does in the Iron Man movies.

Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,514,221, titled "Working with 3D objects," describes a graphical interface that allows a user to "generate and manipulate 3D objects using 3D gesture inputs," Apple Insider reports.   More specifically, the interface can be a computer assisted design (CAD) application running on a computer with a touch-sensitive surface, such as an iPad.

The patent refers to a device that can detect the location of fingers with a combination of capacitive touch sensors and proximity sensors embedded in the display. These two components can be separate, or the capacitive sensors themselves can act as proximity sensors by measuring the capacitance of a nearby finger.

Does this mean that proximity sensing will be a new feature on the next iPad release?

Apple 3D interface

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The patent describes how 3D objects can be extruded from 2D images with the proposed system. Generating the 3D renderings, and manipulating 2D objects with conventional touchscreen gestures, such as pinching. Instead of continuing with established iOS gestures, the invention deviates by introducing a third axis of control.

Further, modifications can be performed with "pinch and pull" or "pinch and push" gestures, which extrude or push in a portion of a 3D object, respectively. In another embodiment, objects can be rotated around the z-axis with a twisting motion.

One interesting application described in the document is dubbed "sculpting" mode. This embodiment treats the 3D object as if it were made of clay, like the interface used in ZBrush software. Depending on finger movement, a user can make indentations, stretch, or squeeze the shape so that one area is made smaller and another larger. A "pinch-twist-and-pull" gesture can also be used to break off a piece of the digital clay.

Apple 3D interface sculpting

In another use scenario, textures, colors and other surface attributes can be selected and tuned by hovering over a screen's surface. These gestures are largely made perpendicular to the device's display, with selected attributes corresponding to height away from the screen. For example, an object can be made brighter when a finger hovering over a "Brightness" UI region is moved farther away from the display. Slide bars, buttons, and other assets may act as alternative controls.

Finally, the patent makes mention of using 3D or stereoscopic glasses to make the experience even more engaging. Also noted are further UI implementations such as iconography, graphical assets and general usability considerations.

Proximity sensors similar to that described in Apple's patent is just now making its way to the mass market in the Leap Motion Controller and Kinect sensor.

Robbie Tilton has put together a demonstration video showing a Leap Motion controlling a Three.js rendered 3D hologram that gives a preliminary example of the possibilities of 3D interfaces. In the demo, a globe is projected on a 4-sided prism, and while it’s not quite as good as what Tony Stark has in Iron Man, it’s still very interesting.

SOURCE  Apple Insider

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