Apple's new iPhone motion tracking's much more than an empty gesture

The most interesting new Apple [AAPL] iPhone rumor this week isn't the faster speed (that's not unexpected), but the claimed introduction of a motion sensor on the device. What's Apple got planned? I've taken a look through a few Apple patents to get an idea.

 More than an empty gesture 

I'll recap the rumor first. These claims have come to the world from Fox News (uh-huh) anchor man, Clayton Morris, who spread the news via Twitter. You can make of that what you will, but I'd assume these claims didn't make it past the Fox News legal team for full broadcast on the channel, so I'd take them as unconfirmed chatter, for now.

What he said:

"Sources are telling me the new iPhone's A7 chip is running at about 31% faster than A6. I’m hearing it’s very fast."

Eager to build his Twitter count, he added:

"I’ve also heard there’s a separate chip devoted to motion tracking. Should be an interesting camera upgrade."

Camera upgrade?

I suspect Apple has a few more ideas up its sleeve. A little like LeapMotion the company is on course to create yet another unique selling point across its technology, 3D gesture controls.

Taking a leap

Apple doesn’t tend to strike with all its weapons at once. This will be a stealth enhancement within its OS, and I suspect it won't appear until next year, when an iOS upgrade will permit limited voice and gesture control, specifically for:

  • iOS in the Car;
  • Apple TV (it's a relatively safe assumption Apple will add a camera to Apple TV at some point, gesture controls may be that point).

Think about it:

  • Gesture controls for your iPhone or iPod touch could be a useful addition to your in-car entertainment experience. Introduction of such a feature in conjunction with voice controls could make for a much safer way of navigating your in-car systems.
  • Gesture controls for a camera-equipped Apple TV offers similar advantages -- after all, voice control is of limited use when your whole family is gathered in front of the TV, talking wildly.

When it comes to television, gesture would also make sense for developers looking to create new games, with a particular accent on the gameification of keep fit.

There are other uses for gesture-based control across Apple's ecosystem, from its iOS devices to its Macs. The two examples I've given just happen to reflect some of the sectors we know the company is looking at, both of which mesh well with a gesture-based UI.

Wave hello, Siri goodbye

How might these things be used on the iPhone?

Motion-based payment confirmation

Apple holds a patent for a motion-based payment confirmation system. In conjunction with the fingerprint sensor, might Apple be preparing to deliver its own mobile payments system? If it does, will this be driven by iTunes at the expense of CSPs and their hopes of monetizing their existing billing systems?

Motion-based input

Apple also holds a patent for a hybrid input peripheral that uses inertial sensors and an external touchpad.

Working with 3D objects

At the risk of repetition, Apple also holds a patent for a 3D gesture-based UI for iOS, capable of controlling 3D objects on-screen just by waggling your hand around.

Clever 3D object controls

"Instead of clicking on the object to open it, the user will have the ability to simply zoom an image or app in and out with ease," says the clever chap at PatentlyApple.

Head tracking

In the car? In the den? Apple holds a patent for head tracking, described as part of a " part of a larger project relating to a future 3D GUI for the desktop and portables," according to PatentlyApple.

3D eye-tracking interface for games and phones

Apple also holds a patent for a cool-seeming eye-controlled UI with which to navigate through 3D objects. So suddenly those 3D features in Maps may become something slightly more interesting, right?

3D UI for iOS devices

Not precisely a motion-based patent, there's got to be some interesting ideas within Apple's patented 3D UI.

Creating the installed base

There's plenty more Apple patents that seem to suggest a range of interesting possibilities through which the company can implement gesture-based controls. These things aren't apparent within iOS 7, so I'd imagine the company doesn't intend deployment of these features within the next-generation of its devices -- but the company does like to be incremental in what it adds to its systems.

This incremental approach means that -- in my opinion -- Apple will introduce technologies designed to work with future 3D UI upgrades (flat? This OS is not flat). In other words, the motion sensor in the next iPhone will likely emerge to be an attempt to create an installed base of users who can enjoy these new OS features when they are introduced in approximately two years time.

In the short term, Apple will likely deploy a more limited palette of gesture-based controls, most likely pertaining to identification, payment systems, iOS in car, Apple TV.

However, the claim that Apple intends adding a motion sensor within the next generation of its devices is no light thing. I anticipate its true implementation will eventually be seen as something rather more fundamental than just a camera upgrade.

PS: It's a public holiday in the UK, so I do apologise for the lateness of this post -- family commitments.

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