You may be able to control objects on your future iPhone or iPad just by moving your fingers above the surface.
Published Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent filing called "Working with 3D objects" explains how to coax a 2D object into three dimensions by lifting your fingers and then manipulating it through gestures.
You would start off by touching the object on the screen and then using such common actions as pinching to control it in two dimensions. You would then touch the object in three places and move your fingers off the screen. In reaction, the object would follow your fingers to become three dimensional. Moving your fingers just above the surface of your device then lets you play with that object in 3D.
As one example, Apple describes a pinch-and-pull gesture that can squeeze and stretch certain parts of the object as if you were squeezing and stretching a lump of clay. Such gestures could be especially useful in a CAD program in which you need to design and tweak 3D objects and tap into a menu of different tools as well.
As the patent application explains it:
The CAD program may provide a drafting area showing 2D or 3D objects being processed by the user, and menus outside the drafting area for allowing the user to choose from various tools in generating or modifying 2D or 3D objects. For example, there may be menus for 2D object templates, 3D object templates, paint brush options, eraser options, line options, color options, texture options, options for rotating or resizing the objects, and so forth. The user may select a tool from one of the menus and use the selected tool to manipulate the 2D or 3D object.
How would you see these 3D objects? You may still have to rely on those annoying 3D glasses.
"The 3D display can be an autostereoscopic display that uses lenticular lenses or parallax barriers," the application said. "The 3D display can provide images having different polarizations intended for left or right eyes, and can be viewed by users wearing polarized 3D glasses."