There may soon be a way to control your iPhone without touching the device or telling Siri what you want.
Apple is exploring technology that would allow people to interact with their iPhones using close gestures, instead of tapping the screen, according to a patent application published Feb. 2. Theoretically, it would use sensors already in an iPhone that currently prevent accidental touches from operating the device to recognize and track your fingers when they hover over an iPhone’s screen.
9to5Mac, which first spotted the patent, notes that this could be an extension of multitouch, which allows devices to understand multiple touches at the same time, like when you zoom in on a picture on your iPhone. The patent says that near-touch gestures and touch taps could be used at the same time, which would be a completely new way to interact with an iPhone.
Apple has been working to expand the capabilities of multitouch technology. One of the flagship features of the iPhone 6S was 3D Touch, which lets users perform different functions through a “hard press.” For example, with Instagram, you can use 3D Touch to quickly search or post a new photo from the home screen. In the Safari web browser, you can preview links without opening them.
Apple files patents all the time that end up going unused, but other companies have built products that let people control devices through gestures. Most notably, users of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect and Nintendo’s Wii video-game systems can play games using gestures and motions.