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Apple Patents Wii Remote-like Control

Out of all the Apple products, the Apple TV is now amongst the longest in the tooth.

The last new hardware version of the Apple TV shipped May 31, 2007, making this Apple product overdue for an update. It’s not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with the existing hardware, but it’s just Apple fashion to continually update its products to keep the cash rolling in.

So what’s the hold up for a new Apple TV? Perhaps the company is looking at rolling in improvements that go far beyond just another hard drive and speed bump.

A patent awarded to Apple was published this week that could shed some light on a future version of the device, spotted by Apple Insider. Some choice selections from the patent description include:

"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 company said. "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."

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

"To zoom out, the user may move wand away from screen such that the distance between wand and screen may be larger than the initial distance between wand and [the] screen," Apple explained. "The larger distance between wand and screen may be depicted by the position of wand relative [to its] origin. [...] In some embodiments, the user may provide an input in the z-direction (e.g., to zoom out) by providing an appropriate input with an input mechanism without moving wand. For example, the user may roll a scroll wheel, provide an input on a touchpad, or move a joystick to provide an input in the z-direction and zoom out the image of [the] screen."

In other words, a Wii Remote-like device. While companies often hold patents for technologies that might never see the light of day, the warm reception of the Nintendo Wii’s control scheme may have already validated this idea for Apple. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this in the next-generation Apple TV.