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Apple’s plans for touch-senstive screens and a gesture-based input system might go beyond its iPods.Remember the cool computer interface Tom Cruise played with in Minority Report? Well it looks like Apple could be up to something similar.

In recent months Apple has filed three applications at the US patent office – the first describes an image sensing screen that can actually receive images and well as display them, a second that describes file manipulation using hand gestures, and a third pointing to the development of an Apple touch-screen tablet PC.

Of the three, it’s the image-sensing display that is most interesting. Apple’s US patent application describes it thus:

“A device comprising: a display area; an array of display elements located within the display area, each display element capable of displaying a pixel of information, either alone or in combination with other display elements; and an array of image elements located within the display area, each image element being capable of capturing visual information from a source in front of the display area; wherein each image element has a lens that does not interfere with any display elements.”

In other words – a display with multiple touch points (as many as 15 according to Apple’s patent) that would enable you to manipulate items being projected on to the screen.

Touchy-feely
Apple says the technology could potentially be used in everything from mobile phones to PDAs, Tvs, computer monitors and potentially even the iPod – yes a true ‘video’ model with 3.5-inch touchscreen display is also rumoured to be in the pipeline. The web community hopes it will look something like this.

Similar multi-touch displays (pictured above) are also being developed by New York University consultant Jeff Han. A demonstration video can be seen here. Perhaps the most profound use of all could be as a replacement for the computer mouse, a device popularized by Apple with its first Mac in the early 1980s. After all why would you want to move files around using a tiny cursor guided by a mechanical puck, when you can simply do the same using your finger or even your whole hand instead?

Rob Mead writes for Digital Home Magazine in the UK a title licenced by 4Square Media.

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