Apple looks to improve pen-based input on tablet touchscreens

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Though Apple has shunned the stylus in favor of multi-touch on the iPhone and iPod touch, a new patent application suggests the company is investigating superior handwriting and input recognition via pen.



The patent application, revealed this week, describes a system that would comprehend complex "ink information" created from the use of a pen-like stylus. Entitled "Method and Apparatus for Acquiring and Organizing Ink Information in Pen-aware Computer Systems," the document includes multiple references to "tablet" style computers.



The application even includes a reference to the company's previous stylus-driven portable computer, the Apple Newton, when discussing that current handwriting technology is inadequate for many users.



"Even systems that attempt to improve this situation by using each stroke to determine the input field anew, such as the Apple Newton from Apple Computer Inc. of Cupertino, Calif., can suffer from failure modes that make the situation difficult for both end users and for application developers," the document reads. "For example, a word that accidentally spans two input fields even a tiny amount (due, for instance, to a stray ascender, descender, crossbar, or dot) may be broken up into multiple sessions, causing misrecognition and invalid data entries that must be manually corrected."



The application goes on to describe a pen-based system that would include an "ink manager" to serve as the intermediary between the stylus input and applications on the hardware.



"The ink manager interfaces between a pen-based input device, one or more applications (pen-aware or not) and one or more handwriting recognition engines executing on the computer system," the application states. "The ink manager acquires ink information, such as ink strokes, entered at the pen-based input device, and organizes that information into ink phrases."



Included with the application is an illustration of a tablet-style computer. The design is very much similar to what rumors have suggested Apple's highly anticipated, still unannounced tablet device will look like. AppleInsider has been told the 10-inch, multi-touch device will be unveiled in the first quarter of 2010.







The references to digital ink in the latest patent application, filed in July of 2009, are similar to previous patent filings regarding a next-generation multi-touch input surface. Those documents also referenced the use of a stylus, but noted that pen inputs are typically not dynamic enough to address the needs of many users. The previous applications favored the use of fingertips, and described a system that would be able to understand ten individual fingers separately.
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    I guess credit card companies wanted a better signiture from those modded touches that now serve as sales registers.
  • Reply 2 of 68
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,694member
    This could be huge but I have to wonder about the tech used to detect the "pen". Will the tablet have a capacitive sensor for Touch and another to detect pen position? I just can't see a reasonably sharp pen being picked up by a capacitive sensor. I don't think much of the inferred pen from finger position approach, the virtual pen if you will.



    In any event I expect we wil see lots of patent applications from Apple in the coming weeks as it readies the tablet roll out. Hopefully this is an indication of a truely innovative platform.





    Dave
  • Reply 3 of 68
    I just got a Wacom graphics tablet and played with inkwell for a while, and it was terrible. My 11-year-old Newton that still sits on my desk has far better HWR than inkwell/Wacom combination. So yeah, it needs some updating.
  • Reply 4 of 68
    hattighattig Posts: 830member
    The most important part for me with a pen based input is that the ink on the display is instantly on screen when writing - no catch-up, no jerkyness, etc. That way it feels reasonably natural. Also the ink should be anti-aliased for smoothness and pleasantness to the eye.



    Handwriting recognition based upon strokes rather than analysing the resulting bitmap from writing on screen can be quite accurate, given suitable algorithms and maybe a little training (the device would be pre-trained for common handwriting styles, a 'h' is down, up a bit, right and down for example).



    The best thing is that drawing little maps, directions, diagrams in notes/maps/ebooks/etc would be easy and natural.
  • Reply 5 of 68
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Do we really want to go back to this old technology? Pens? Stylus? Aren't our fingers good enough?
  • Reply 6 of 68
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Fingers are good for some things, pens are good for others. A device that supported both would be nice.



    But I do think that on such a dual device finger would be used most of the time, with pen only for specialised uses.
  • Reply 7 of 68
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    This reminds me of Apple investigating superior mice.
  • Reply 8 of 68
    stuffestuffe Posts: 391member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Included with the application is an illustration of a tablet-style computer. The design is very much similar to what rumors have suggested Apple's highly anticipated, still unannounced tablet device will look like.



    What, as in a rectangle with curved corners? No shit Sherlock!
  • Reply 9 of 68
    SJ will make sure that this technology will work well if it is used on the tablet.
  • Reply 10 of 68
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iphonedeveloperthailand View Post


    SJ will make sure that this technology will work well if it is used on the tablet.



    God willing.
  • Reply 11 of 68
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sheff View Post


    I guess credit card companies wanted a better signiture from those modded touches that now serve as sales registers.



    I don't think that has anything to do with it given that the WinMobile ones sucked so badly at the same thing.



    I have to sign for packages at least once or twice a week, it's always a WinMobile device, and it always has some kind of problem. It either captures nothing at all, or it captures an illegible squiggle. The delivery person always asks for the name and then types it in on the keyboard as he/she is leaving.



    It's been that way for years. I don't see how the iPod touch version could be any worse than that.
  • Reply 12 of 68
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Fingers are good for some things, pens are good for others. A device that supported both would be nice.



    But I do think that on such a dual device finger would be used most of the time, with pen only for specialised uses.



    To me this is the last kind of big mystery about the purported tablet from Apple.



    Will there be a stylus? It's so *not* Apple to have a stylus, but the fancy patents they have that may allow them to do without one seem far-fetched.



    If Apple can pull off a tablet that doesn't need a stylus to do ink input, it will go in the tech hall of fame. If they merely produce a tablet without a stylus and tell us we don't need ink input, there will be disappointment. If on the third hand, they produce a tablet with a gimmicky plastic stylus in a hole on the side it will be a similar letdown for many.



    It will be real interesting to see what they do here.
  • Reply 13 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    This could be huge but I have to wonder about the tech used to detect the "pen". Will the tablet have a capacitive sensor for Touch and another to detect pen position? I just can't see a reasonably sharp pen being picked up by a capacitive sensor. I don't think much of the inferred pen from finger position approach, the virtual pen if you will.



    In any event I expect we wil see lots of patent applications from Apple in the coming weeks as it readies the tablet roll out. Hopefully this is an indication of a truely innovative platform.





    Dave



    I believe that you can approximate a "reasonably sharp pen" with a capacitive screen. The current iPhone recognizes about 1/8" (30 pixel) radius as a touch and rejects anything less as noise.



    I assume that this is done in software because that's the way Apple likes to do things.



    If so, then Apple could change the radius (sharpness) with software.



    That said, you can get acceptable sharpness for handwriting and signatures on all the current iPhone screens using a home-made stylus and an app like Sketches.



    Dick



  • Reply 14 of 68
    Thanks ai. For sure one of the most interesting articles these past days...man I can't wait for the tablet.



    Btw, when you receive a delivery and you ar given this little pad to sign on acceptance dont you just wonder how this crappy distorted signature that ends up there could have been anyones....well, apple to the rescue then.
  • Reply 15 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    Do we really want to go back to this old technology? Pens? Stylus? Aren't our fingers good enough?



    Well, I know you eat with your hands and all, but...
  • Reply 16 of 68
    olternautolternaut Posts: 1,376member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    This could be huge but I have to wonder about the tech used to detect the "pen". Will the tablet have a capacitive sensor for Touch and another to detect pen position? I just can't see a reasonably sharp pen being picked up by a capacitive sensor. I don't think much of the inferred pen from finger position approach, the virtual pen if you will.



    In any event I expect we wil see lots of patent applications from Apple in the coming weeks as it readies the tablet roll out. Hopefully this is an indication of a truely innovative platform.





    Dave



    Yes Dave.



    It's called the pogo stylus (and various other 3rd party solutions). And no, it won't be sharp. If anything, it will be "sharper" at least than the standard capacitive stylus but it certainly won't be as sharp as the average pen. It probably won't be sharp as even the old fashioned regular pen based stylus either.
  • Reply 17 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    Do we really want to go back to this old technology? Pens? Stylus? Aren't our fingers good enough?



    Do you write with your fingers on paper? This only makes sense for a tablet device, as the larger surface can accommodate such an input method. And using a stylus for writing would be more natural than typing on a full sized touch keyboard, IMO, due to tactile reasons. Apple has already implemented this feature (somewhat) in its custom concierge devices for Apple Store checkouts. Wouldn't be surprised if this plays a major role in its upcoming tablet device.
  • Reply 18 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


    Well, I know you eat with your hands and all, but...



    What do you eat with?
  • Reply 19 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Olternaut View Post


    Yes Dave.



    It's called the pogo stylus (and various other 3rd party solutions). And no, it won't be sharp. If anything, it will be "sharper" at least than the standard capacitive stylus but it certainly won't be as sharp as the average pen. It probably won't be sharp as even the old fashioned regular pen based stylus either.



    As I posted above, I believe apple can change the sharpness through software.



    A better stylus could be designed with a sharper point, say 5-10 pixel radius. Stylus (pen) pressure could be measured and sent by BlueTooth.



    The "Tablet" could detect the presence of the stylus and automatically switch into precision, single-touch mode (vs finger multi-touch mode),



    *
  • Reply 20 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iReality85 View Post


    Do you write with your fingers on paper? This only makes sense for a tablet device, as the larger surface can accommodate such an input method. And using a stylus for writing would be more natural than typing on a full sized touch keyboard, IMO, due to tactile reasons. Apple has already implemented this feature (somewhat) in its custom concierge devices for Apple Store checkouts. Wouldn't be surprised if this plays a major role in its upcoming tablet device.



    Actually, if you step back and think about it a smaller device is where you would want finer control, wouldn't you? A larger device you could scale or make the sensitivity different based on the application you are in. Why couldn't you use your finger and have a finer control? Think like Photoshop paintbrushes or pens, you can change the point size, I would imagine the same could be done on a tablet.
Sign In or Register to comment.