The Patently Apple blog reports that the application was submitted by Apple to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, outlining the concept of a desktop computer featuring a touchscreen GUI (graphical user interface).
Various manufacturers already offer touchscreen desktop computers, including Dell and Hewlett Packard, enabling users to perform a variety of action on screen with touch.
However, Apple's patent application specifically refers to the use of 'virtual controls' on the screen, including buttons and sliders that could allow users to more easily control audio and voice programs without the need for a mouse, or stylus or separate tablet.
The patent says: "The visual augmentation could include displaying an outline and/or fill region (eg a color or pattern fill) around the knob element, displaying text labels for minimum and maximum range limit values and displaying a slider element with the knob element."
Patently Apple has dubbed the device "iMac Touch", and said that it could particularly appeal to business users, such as advertising firms or design companies.
Also this week, Microsoft released a version of its Kinect system for Windows-based PCs, enabling users to control computer programs and perform actions with their voice and movement.