Want to manipulate a 3D image with swipes, touches and other gestures? Look no further than Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Apple Patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent application for an “Interactive three-dimensional display system,” that would get users one step closer to being Tom Cruise in the film Minority Report. Don’t like Tom Cruise? Just insert your choice of hologram manipulation examples from your favorite science fiction show, book, or film.

Never mind that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is in a heated patent battle with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) over a number of things it views as theft of intellectual property, the office is required to publish an application presumably much to the chagrin of the applicant.

How it works?

The image that would be projected is digital into a medium, such as a non-linear crystal using infrared lasers, and not a a mere reflection of a physical object. The medium would be responsible for mixing and up-converting the (invisible) infrared laser light into something in the visible spectrum and…voila, a 3D image.

According to the published application, the medium, whatever it may be, would be located between two parabolic mirrors. After bouncing about a bit, the primary image would emerge through a hole in the top mirror creating the hologram. Then through a host of sensors, this image could be moved around by the user through a series of gestures that elicit commands and subsequent actions.

Following the projection of the image, a 3D input detection system would then collect and translate the user’s motions. These movements would be detected in 3D space by a combination of lasers to a beam expander in the bottom mirror assembly. The laser exiting the top mirror would emit a beam that strikes a user’s hand and the resultant reflected light would be captured and translated by an on-board processor.

Seen it before?

The whole thing, from my layman’s perspective, resembles Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s “Vermeer” project. The 360-degree viewable display, “Vermeer,” was shown by Microsoft Research in 2011. The patent for Apple’s “display” was filed in 2012 crediting Christoph H. Krah and Marduke Yousefpor as its inventors.