In a breakdown of Apple’s announcements at WWDC 2012, contributor Benjamin Jackson, writing for Buzzfeed, outed an interesting detail that could make its way to iOS devices in the future. Namely, the ability for the device to detect where shadows would actually lie on user interface elements, by tracking real-world light sources.

This comes hot on the heels of people outing iOS features like the shiny radio button in the Music app that animates based on accelerometer readings. Jackson describes what he heard:

One Apple employee (who I can’t name as the company does not allow employees to speak on the record without approval from media relations) said that in the future, your phone will show drop shadows based on the actual position of the light in the room, as detected by the phone’s ambient sensor — and everything in the UI will be rendered in 3D on the fly.

Jackson is a semi-regular contributor to TNW and a real mensch, so I have little doubt that what he says he was told was related accurately. Still, this should definitely be taken with a hefty grain of salt.

There’s no telling whether this feature will actually make it into a shipping version of iOS, but it’s an intriguing tidbit, to be sure. It could, of course, just be an Apple engineer hyping up a pet project or talking about something internally that is exciting technically.

Apple’s iOS 6 software has already shown off a couple of interesting tidbits of detailed animation, including the aforementioned shiny volume button and a new Settings icon whose gears spin while it is updating. A full-3D interface that rendered shadows in realtime would certainly be an interesting addition to Apple’s array of detail-oriented design decisions lately.

It does make me wonder how distracting such a ‘real 3D’ interface might be while walking around and moving the phone though. What do you think? Does it sound cool or ridiculous?

See also: ‘Redeem’ button in new Podcasts app for iOS points to possibility of paid podcasts.

Image Credit: Nate Bolt