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3D UI patent snapped up by Apple in 2008: could be bases-covering, could be life-changing

We've seen this done badly so many time that it's hard to imagine anyone so self serious as Apple taking a crack at it (even if they've already done so in the desktop space), but for whatever reason the company picked up this 3D UI patent back in 2008 under the guise of a few French employees. The patent was just released in December, and describes in some detail a method of zooming around in 3D using multitouch. Of course, this picture seems to imply that it's for jumping through some representative icons on a 3D plane, but the patent seems more concerned with the core mechanics of using multiple fingers at once to get around in 3D space and manipulate 3D objects -- and then going to great lengths to cover Apple's back in regards to multitouch, capacitive touch, and "multifunction" devices. So, this could be something we see in "the tablet," the next iPhone or even never, but at least we can rest assured that pinch to zoom won't be the only multitouch game in town forever.