Apple’s ‘Communicating Stylus’ for Capturing Digital Versions of Handwritten Notes Wins Patent

Apple today was awarded a new patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that concerns a new type of digital stylus that translates a user’s handwritten note into a digital version when connected to a smartphone, tablet, or any “digital computing device” (via Apple Insider).

The patent also details various exchangeable tips for the stylus, including actual ink, markers for a whiteboard, or a rubberized nub akin to most popular tablet styli. The stylus activates when various motion-sensing hardware, including accelerometers, detects when the pen is picked up out of its dock, pressed to a writing surface, or simply turned on manually.

Thanks to motion sensors able to detect a 3D plane, the stylus uses an initial zero point to transmit the movement and flow of handwriting as varying changes in position to the desired computing device. This technology also means an actual surface isn’t needed to transmit data — simply writing notes in the air would suffice. The patent even details ways for users to choose how the data is transmitted, including continuously or at chosen intervals, allowing battery life to be preserved.

As noted by Apple Insider, there are many practical solutions for Apple’s new patent. The pen allows a user to display their writing on multiple displays, a possible solution for work meetings and classrooms. It could also be a digital solution for note-taking, as the user would take notes with the pen on a paper tablet, and a digital copy would be sent to a phone or tablet tucked away in a bag. The automatically produced digital backup could then be more easily edited and shared.

The patent isn’t exactly new, being initially filed nearly five years ago in January of 2010, and is by no means a confirmation that Apple will be moving forward with a smart stylus of any kind. But, like most patents, it is an interesting glimpse into what possibilities the company is looking into for the future.

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