Apple patents stylus to write on any surface, not just touch screens

The new device could be used for augmented reality applications, and could be simultaneously connected to multiple devices.

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Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Apple has filed a patent for a stylus that can write on any surface, including the ability to doodle in midair and have the drawing show up on another device.
  • The digital stylus could be used to prototype hardware in augmented reality or storyboard in virtual reality.

Apple could be working on a new stylus that allows a user to write on any surface, even those without a touch-sensitive input, according to a recent patent filed by the tech giant. The stylus could also be use in mid-air--with no surface at all--further freeing up professionals.

The capability to draw and write more freely, especially in mid-air, could be helpful for prototyping or building applications in augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). It could also help professionals more fluidly storyboard and take notes during VR-based conference calls.

Of course, Apple already has a stylus--the Apple Pencil--but it is limited to use with the iPad Pro. This new stylus could expand to work on other iOS devices and MacBooks as well.

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The stylus will use motion or orientation sensors to track its movement in space. According to the patent, it could also include an accelerometer and gyroscope to further track its motion. Motion data could then be stored in some form of memory, or transmitted wirelessly.

Additionally, the proposed stylus could also use a camera to record photos or video, which would then be used for positioning and additional tracking.

Standalone receivers were also mentioned in the patent, which noted possible installation in office buildings, conference rooms, classrooms, businesses, homes, and more. This could point to a possible Internet of Things (IoT) tie-in, too.

The patent also proposed some other add-ons and accessories as well. In these cases, for example, a replacement tip for the stylus could be used to take advantage of different sensors. Or standalone sensors could be used to turn a standard pencil or pen into a smart stylus.

Apple's patented stylus could be used for both 2D and 3D applications, but the enterprise will likely find more value in 3D. One example use case would be drawing out a tube or canister in 3D, and then porting that drawing into a CAD program to formally render it for production. What's more, 2D drawings could be ported over into 3D as well.

While the new stylus is simply a patent, it raises interesting questions about the future workplace and how collaboration and work will happen in years to come.

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Image: Apple/WIPO