If you’re tired of swiping and tapping your way through smartphones and tablets Apple may have a very interesting alternative. A new patent awarded to the Cupertino company details a system for projecting interactive 3D images that could let you control your phone without actually touching it.

The patent, which was filed by Apple back in October 2012 and titled “Interactive Three-Dimensional Display System,” details how future products could display a 3D image that you control by “pinching, sliding, swiping, rotating, flexing, dragging, or tapping motion” the holographic object. The technology behind the idea isn’t totally new, but what Apple proposes goes beyond any of the optical illusion pseudo-holograms in use today.

Apple’s system is made up of three basic parts. There’s a display for creating the image, an optical system for projecting it into the air, and a sensor for reading and reacting to your gestures. The end result would be a 3D image you could view from all angles and interact with, even using a pinch-to-zoom gesture to increase or decrease its size.

As with any Apple patent, there’s no guarantee this technology will ever hit the market. Still, we’d definitely love to see hologram-projecting devices make the jump from concept designs to reality. Interactive 3D images could provide a huge boost to iPhone and iPad sales, or even help launch a new product by providing the killer feature that makes it a must-buy.

Hopefully Apple doesn’t leave this patent to simply sit and gather dust.

Source USPTO