Tim Cook Apple Tim Cook Apple Apple CEO Tim Cook with model Christy Turlington during the Apple Watch launch event. Apple's Israeli R&D office filed a patent for a 3D sensor that will project smart home controls onto walls and furniture. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Apple patents tech for holographic smart home controls

The next step in the connected home could be controls projected on your living room wall.

Those of you who have started to convert your home into a "smart home" know that the gadgetry involved is pretty cool. How great is it to tell your Nest thermostat to turn the heat on from your smartphone as you leave the office, or unlatch your smart lock from the car so you can carry groceries and not fumble for your keys?

Imagine, though, if you were able to ditch those pesky dials and switches on your walls and just fiddle with holographic controls. Apple's latest patent might allow you to do just that.

According to Geektime, the tech company's R&D office in Herzliya, Israel filed a patent for a 3D sensor that will project controls onto surfaces like walls and furniture, allowing users to interact with them to control functions in the home. The technology, called "flexible room controls," is based on the 3D sensor technology developed by Israeli startup PrimeSense, which Apple acquired in 2013.

Here's how Apple, ideally, would like this to work: The 3D sensor and projector would be implanted in the ceiling of the room you want to use it in, like the living room. It will adjust where the controls go depending on the height of the person in the room. The user will also get the ability to move controls around. The controls themselves will look like they're supposed to look: a switch for a light, a knob for the thermostat, etc.

The technology is still in the very preliminary stages, and Apple is entering a connected home market that's already highly competitive, despite the fact that it's only starting to be adopted on a wide scale. But it does seem like the options to controlling your home will be endless. There's even a device in development that will allow you to make your couch into a virtual remote for your TV, so Apple already has competition there.

By the way, PrimeSense's sensor technology isn't a pipe dream. It's currently used in the Xbox Kinect system, and they've made sensor devices for a number of gaming systems.

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