If Apple’s latest patent is any indication, your next Apple Pencil will be more than a pointing and drawing accessory for your iPad Pro. It’ll also be a pointing device for your Mac, and a joystick for gaming.
Apple’s new patent, number 9,400,570 (Stylus with inertial sensor), describes a stylus that’s far more than a tablet pointing device. The stylus includes a collection of inertial sensors tracking movement across nine axes with the ability to track movement on a surface, or gestures without touching a surface.
Unlike the current Apple Pencil, which works only with the iPad Pro, this new patent also shows the stylus used to control an iMac. Controlling a Mac with a stylus isn’t new—Wacom’s tablets have done that for years—although this is fresh territory for Apple. To date, Apple has focused on mouse-based and trackpad control, and left alternative pointing devices to third party developers.
Apple’s patent describes a stylus that’s more sophisticated than any we’ve seen so far. Along with angle and pressure sensitivity, the stylus senses when you roll it between your fingers, which should let it detect more subtle and nuanced gestures—a big plus for digital artists.
For video and audio editors, who should also be considered artists, this stylus will make their jobs easier, too. Many of the taps and swipes they make today can be replaced with subtle gestures. Imagine turning an on-screen dial by quickly rolling the stylus shaft between your thumb and finger.
Gamers will have new ways to play that feels in one way like the Nintendo Wii’s wireless gaming wands, but is more sophisticated. Players won’t necessarily need to touch a surface to interact with a game, and the stylus can become a prop, like a gun or a wand, and not just a pointing device.
Apple goes pro-stylus
This doesn’t negate Steve Jobs’s feeling that needing a stylus to perform a task is a design failure. Instead, this is Apple getting that there are ways to improve our efficiency. Just like the iPad Pro is fully usable without Apple Pencil, the experience is enhanced with it. That’s what Apple is going for with this new patent, and it’s bringing it to the Mac.
That’s all pretty exciting, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll really see this stylus any time soon, or that we’ll ever get all of its features. Patents are filed to protect ideas, and sometimes they’re presented in ways that obfuscate their real use. Still, this is one stylus we’d love to get our hands on.
[Thanks to Engadget for the heads up]