When Steve Jobs told Walter Isaacson in Jobs’s recent biography that he had “cracked” the secret to controlling an Apple TV set, most people assumed he was talking about Siri, the voice assistant in the iPhone 4S. But a new patent suggests he might have meant something closer to Microsoft Kinect.
The patent, filed in August by Apple, outlines a “three-dimensional imaging and display system” that detects a person’s motion via an infrared laser, and interprets the gestures to control a display.
If that sounds like Kinect, that’s because it’s conceptually very similar. Both systems use infrared scanning to detect body movement in 3D space in order to control what’s happening onscreen. However, the system outlined by Apple appears to be more limited than Kinect — more suited for menu selections than actual gameplay.
Assuming that’s the case, that would make it an ideal user interface for something that is more than arm’s length away, like a TV set. After all, there’s little need for motion control like this in the typical devices Apple makes: computers, phones, and tablets.
It’s admittedly speculation, but imagine an Apple TV controlled primarily via motion control, with Siri thrown in for when you want to lower the volume without putting down your martini glass. That could be what Jobs meant when he had figured out the ideal TV remote control: the viewer.