Now Apple is developing Wiimote-style controller

Now Apple is developing Wiimote-style controller
Michael French

By Michael French

March 16th 2009 at 9:23AM

64-page patent filing reveals Wii-esque wand that uses IR sensors and works with Apple TV

After conquering the handheld space, is Apple now looking to take on Nintendo in the home console space? Or, after years touting the device as a media server, is Apple preparing to turn its Apple TV set top box into a games console?

These are just two of the questions Apple watchers have been asking over the weekend on news that the company has filed a new patent for a 'wand' peripheral that is reminiscent of the Wii remote.

The 64-page patenting filing describes the wand as being able to access a variety of functions including zoom, an on-scren keyboard, an image and illustration app as well as media functions.

But while the patent sticks to describing non-games possibilities for the device and how it would work with Apple TV, it's easy to see the wand's application to games.

"The wand may include an optical component for capturing images of the infrared modules, and may calculate its orientation and distance from the modules based on the captured images," the filing says, as pointed out by Appleinsider.

"In some embodiments, the electronic device may direct the infrared modules to identify the position of an infrared emitter incorporated on the wand, and may calculate the absolute position of the wand relative to the infrared modules."

The Wiimote works in a similar fashion, using a sensor in the front of the remote to detect a bar with two infrared sensors on it placed on top of TVs - this allows the unit to gauge distance and movement.

"In some embodiments, the user may provide a selection input by moving wand in a particular manner," the filing adds.

"For example, the user may flick wand (e.g., move wand in circular pattern), rotate wand in a particular manner (e.g., perform a rotation of wand), move wand a particular distance off screen, or any other suitable movement of wand."

The Apple TV device was first released in 2007 but hasn't been a standout Apple product like the iPhone or iPod. Apple says it remains committed to the device, despite describing it as one of the companies 'hobby' projects alongside its laptops, computers, handheld devices, and iTunes store.

As Yahoo points out, acting Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said Apple "will continue to invest [in Apple TV] because we fundamentally believe there is something there for us in the future."