On most of Apple’s devices, users can control just about any aspect of them with a tap on a screen or a swipe of a touchpad. But in the future, users may be able to do the same with a wave of a hand or other hand gestures. A newly revealed invention by the company shows how that could become reality.

A patent granted to Apple Inc. and published by the Patent and Trademark Office Tuesday, titled “Learning-Based Estimation of Hand and Finger Pose,” reveals a method for creating accurate 3D depth maps of a scene involving a human hand and detecting distinct hand gestures and positions, such as a clenched fist or a peace sign. It also can detect gestures even if the hand is partially obscured by another object. Those gestures can then be used to control a computer application or other device.

Apple hand Gesture One patent illustration shows a device similar to Microsoft's Kinect, used to detect distinct hand gestures such as a "peace sign." Photo: USPTO/Apple

If this invention sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because Apple’s patent is one of many obtained in a $350 million acquisition deal in November 2013 for Primesense, a 3D sensing technology company based in Tel Aviv. Primesense was the same company behind the Microsoft Kinect, released for the Xbox 360 in 2010.

Apple's hand Gesture Accurate 3D depth mapping enables devices to distinguish between various poses of a hand such as a clenched fist. Photo: USPTO/Apple

This patent, combined with other acquired patents in its portfolio, could pave the way for hand gesture controls reminiscent of the 2002 sci-fi thriller “Minority Report,” on Macs, Apple TVs and future iOS devices, according to AppleInsider. But as with many of Apple’s patents, it’s unknown if or when it plans to incorporate the invention into its future products.

The patent, filed in March 6, 2013, credits former Primesense engineers Shai Litvak, Leonid Brailovsky and Tomer Yanir for the invention.