Apple is working on a controller that would allow you to interact with 3D games and content

An Xbox controller leaning on Vision Pro.
(Image credit: Brady Snyder / Future)

The Apple Vision Pro is almost certainly the best mixed reality headset kicking about, but one area where Meta clearly pushes ahead is gaming. Virtual reality headsets have been primarily used for gaming and fitness so far, and no headset does a better job of that than the Meta Quest. But that might be about to change.

According to a newly published patent with the USPTO, Apple is developing a deformable controller to enhance user interaction with 3D games and other content on devices like the iPad, Mac, and the Vision Pro. A deformable controller is just like it sounds – something you can move entirely. Imagine squishing, twisting, and bending this control to move through virtual worlds.

This deformable controller isn’t just a static piece of plastic; it’s designed to move virtual objects, adjust audio settings, draw in 3D, and even play immersive 3D video games. The controller’s nub-shaped housing, complete with an elongated dome, can be squished and twisted to provide input, detected through a series of sophisticated sensors embedded within the flexible structure.

Apple's patent sketch for a deformable controller

(Image credit: Apple/USPTO)

What else can this deformable controller do?

The deformable controller is versatile. It can work with a head-mounted display like the Vision Pro, or function as a standalone remote for your iPad or Mac. Sensors in the controller can detect everything from multitouch gestures and force inputs to more complex deformation inputs. This means you can pinch, twist, and press to your heart's content, and the controller will translate these movements into precise actions on screen.

According to the patent, Apple’s vision for this controller includes integration with various sensors – 3D sensors, cameras, gaze tracking systems, and even microphones for voice commands. This level of interaction opens up a whole new world of possibilities, from adjusting audio settings with a squeeze to navigating complex 3D menus with a twist.

The patent describes a range of potential uses. Imagine using this deformable controller to draw in a 3D program, play intricate video games, or move virtual objects with unprecedented precision. The flexibility (quite literally) of this controller could make it a game-changer, with its uses unlimited. You can already connect controllers, keyboards, and mic to the Vision Pro to control apps without eye and hand control, but this would be a step further.

In classic Apple style, the patent doesn’t give away too much about when we might see this new controller hit the shelves. It may never even surface. But if it does, it could make the Vision Pro the top headset for immersive 3D content.

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Connor Jewiss

Connor is a technology writer and editor, with a byline on multiple platforms. He has been writing for around seven years now across the web and in print too. Connor has experience on most major platforms, though does hold a place in his heart for macOS, iOS/iPadOS, electric vehicles, and smartphone tech.