Apple patent hints next-gen Apple Pencil to sport swappable nibs, Touch ID, 'eraser' & more

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2016
A years-old Apple patent filing might yield clues as to the company's future plans for Apple Pencil, as the document includes never before seen features like interchangeable multifunction nibs with built-in sensors.




Like Apple Pencil, the device described by Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,329,703 for an "Intelligent Stylus," as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, employs sensors, microprocessors and advanced algorithms to capture hand gestures for display on a digital touchscreen.

Both Pencil and the proposed device operate by determining stylus condition at a set point in time, specifically when the conductive nib makes contact with a tablet's capacitive display. These conditions are measured by a set of onboard sensors ranging in capability from pressure sensing to proximity awareness, broken into readable data and sent to a host device via suitable wireless communications protocol.

Pencil, for example, boasts a finely tuned pressure sensor capable of determining fine changes in input force, usually resulting in variably thick or thin lines onscreen. Further, two emitters embedded in Pencil's tubular chassis send out signals detected by iPad Pro to determine tilt, a metric that again changes onscreen output.

The invention detailed today supports stylus conditions identical to those built into Pencil, peppering in a few more hardware options like hot-swappable active nibs and additional sensing equipment. In some embodiments the replaceable tips carry unique identification codes readable by specialized sensors embedded within the stylus body. Each tip type -- brush, pencil, felt tip pen and others -- supports a different stylus condition.


Source: USPTO


For example, a brush tip might cause the onboard microprocessor, or alternatively a host iPad, to interpret long painterly strokes in a completely different manner than a pencil tip. Likewise, users would be compelled to manipulate the stylus as they would a real writing implement or drawing tool.

Apple proposes a number of nib attachments as potential candidates for integration, including exotic examples like a force-sensing bristle brush, motion-tracking camera and a flashlight. An alternative design incorporates an actual lead tip that translates pencil-on-paper stylus motion into digital handwriting, much like product offerings from companies like Livescribe.




The invention extends hardware identification beyond replaceable nibs. In some embodiments, individual owners or devices might also sport unique codes, a useful feature for collaborating on a single iPad. Fingerprint recognition is mentioned as a potential means of authentication, a function that also serves as an effective security measure. If a user's fingerprint is not recognized, the stylus would deny input, for example.

In addition to the usual nib sensor, the document suggests embedding a second, sister sensor into the non-tip end, proving Apple at least contemplated the inclusion of an "eraser" for Apple Pencil prior to launch.

The document goes on to discuss alternative embodiments including a multifunction push button and sensors capable of measuring rotational movement.




As Apple Pencil hit store shelves mere months ago, and with supply only now catching up with demand, a second-generation version is unlikely to appear anytime soon.

Apple's intelligent stylus patent was first filed for in 2011 and credits David R. Falkenburg, David I. Simon, Jonah A. Harley, Andrea Mucignat, Brian Richards Land, Christopher Tenzin Mullens and Steven Porter Hotelling as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    I hope thi is just old material Apple looked into long ago. I don't want to have to keep track of a number of nibs for my $99 stylus just to create varied effects. Between Wacom and Corel, I've been able to do this with one tip. 
  • Reply 2 of 15
    I hope thi is just old material Apple looked into long ago 
    Just beneath the headline it says "A years-old Apple patent filing".
    justadcomics
  • Reply 3 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,785member
    So changing nibs to change input type (pencil > brush) is obviously impractical. The only thing interesting here is the possibility of an eraser. Makes one wonder why they never included one: beyond a no-brainer. Necessary I would say.
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 4 of 15
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,730member
    I hope thi is just old material Apple looked into long ago. I don't want to have to keep track of a number of nibs for my $99 stylus just to create varied effects. Between Wacom and Corel, I've been able to do this with one tip. 
    You are aware that Wacom has various incarnations of stylus, so there must be some demand for them. The Pencil has gotten rave reviews as is, but it might also be the case that I and others might have a preference for specific tips, given the option.

    Either way, it makes sense for Apple to investigate all of the variations of the Pencil and tip that might be useful to the customer base, and frankly, a modular tip that could be changed in a few seconds seems like a winning strategy.

    As for the eraser, I'm guessing that Apple was focussed on delivering the first version both the Pencil and the iPad Pro, and would of course be aware that other offering could be made in the future. I myself would like a rugged pocketable version of the Pencil, but my guess is that Apple hasn't been able to refine the design enough for that to happen any time soon.
    rogue cheddar
  • Reply 5 of 15
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,312member
    Interesting refinements to the Pencil device but I'd like to see Apple start off by ensuring all of their screen based devices down to the Apple Watch are compatible with the Pencil.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,527member

    ... What do you want with your fries?

    justadcomics
  • Reply 7 of 15
    tmay said:
    I hope thi is just old material Apple looked into long ago. I don't want to have to keep track of a number of nibs for my $99 stylus just to create varied effects. Between Wacom and Corel, I've been able to do this with one tip. 
    You are aware that Wacom has various incarnations of stylus, so there must be some demand for them. The Pencil has gotten rave reviews as is, but it might also be the case that I and others might have a preference for specific tips, given the option.

    Either way, it makes sense for Apple to investigate all of the variations of the Pencil and tip that might be useful to the customer base, and frankly, a modular tip that could be changed in a few seconds seems like a winning strategy.

    As for the eraser, I'm guessing that Apple was focussed on delivering the first version both the Pencil and the iPad Pro, and would of course be aware that other offering could be made in the future. I myself would like a rugged pocketable version of the Pencil, but my guess is that Apple hasn't been able to refine the design enough for that to happen any time soon.
    Yes, the Wacom on my desk now has a stylus with interchangeable nibs for various feels and effects. In fact, when Wacom changeable nibs became available, I remember my excitement over the possibilities they presented. I swapped them all the time to take full advantage of their intended uses. Over time, I started to fall out of love with them. The differences were so subtle that I found I really only needed the one I use now. They began to feel more like a gimmick rather than a set of tools. Perhaps my gripe isn't with the fact that Apple is toying with the idea of interchangeable nibs. Perhaps my real concern is that they, too, would ultimately be additional things costing more money that don't  bring much to the table. Years ago, I wouldn't have doubted for a second that an Apple project would be stellar and amazing. Something that we creative types would be able to use to make our work more enjoyable. Today, I look at many of their decisions with a touch of skepticism, balanced by a good deal of hope. 
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 8 of 15
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,527member
    Perhaps my gripe isn't with the fact that Apple is toying with the idea of interchangeable nibs. Perhaps my real concern is that they, too, would ultimately be additional things costing more money that don't  bring much to the table. Years ago, I wouldn't have doubted for a second that an Apple project would be stellar and amazing. Something that we creative types would be able to use to make our work more enjoyable. Today, I look at many of their decisions with a touch of skepticism, balanced by a good deal of hope. 

    I suspect that the pencil that Apple has actually delivered (sans eraser and extra nibs) is a result of that very decision-making process that you hope and expect from Apple!

    When a company, like Apple, investigates a technology -- they usually apply for patents on all identifiable aspects of their solution.  This does not mean that any or all will ever see the light of day in a product.

     The thing that interests me about this patent is the idea that the pencil has the ability to work independently of  a companion electronic surface.   I mean that the pencil could be used to write on an inert surface (a piece of paper, a desk top, a counter top, a window, a light table,  air,  etc. -- and still be used as input to another device ...  Consider using such a pencil on a computer display that is unaware of the pencil's existence, yet can receive wireless input when the pencil is pressed on the display ... The pencil becomes a platform unto itself.
    tmaymike1justadcomicspscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 15
    dacloodacloo Posts: 890member
    The Pen is a typical product from Apple that lacks the sophistication you'd expect from them. Something that would set them apart from other manufacturers.
    • For example, the exclusion of an eraser is just stupid. Turning around your pen to use the eraser would have added so much useful functionality to the device. And it already aligns with the users mental model, it's a no-brainer. Everyone worked with a real pencil with eraser before.
    • But even more so, charging is very crude. You need to stick the pen in your charger which looks ridiculous (and easy to trip over). I'd expect Apple creating some kind of of wireless charging solution for such a low power consuming device.
    • The tip covering the lightning connection is so easily lost! You'd expect Apple would put more thinking in how to solve that issue.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    zroger73zroger73 Posts: 783member
    For a moment, I thought my content filter was malfunctioning. *giggle*


    nolamacguy
  • Reply 11 of 15
    why-why- Posts: 305member
    interchangeable tips, eraser, multifunction button...where have I heard of those things before.......
  • Reply 12 of 15
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,877member
    dacloo said:
    The Pen is a typical product from Apple that lacks the sophistication you'd expect from them. Something that would set them apart from other manufacturers.
    • For example, the exclusion of an eraser is just stupid. Turning around your pen to use the eraser would have added so much useful functionality to the device. And it already aligns with the users mental model, it's a no-brainer. Everyone worked with a real pencil with eraser before.
    • But even more so, charging is very crude. You need to stick the pen in your charger which looks ridiculous (and easy to trip over). I'd expect Apple creating some kind of of wireless charging solution for such a low power consuming device.
    • The tip covering the lightning connection is so easily lost! You'd expect Apple would put more thinking in how to solve that issue.
    Why bother having eraser at the end when you can just use finger as eraser?

    Then you don't need to flip the whole pencil to get an eraser just flip the pencil out of the way. Indeed they could use gestures on the pencils flick movement to call up additional editing interface. Then you're moving beyond just a paper replacement in to something that takes the best of both worlds, the flexibility and re activeness of digital with flow and expression of drawing.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    jhudgins84jhudgins84 Posts: 13member
    Whatever. I just want to see wireless pairing/ charging and increased pressure sensitivity. The eraser is a useless gimmick imo.
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 14 of 15
    indyfxindyfx Posts: 321member
    dacloo said:
    The Pen is a typical product from Apple that lacks the sophistication you'd expect from them. Something that would set them apart from other manufacturers.
    • For example, the exclusion of an eraser is just stupid. Turning around your pen to use the eraser would have added so much useful functionality to the device. And it already aligns with the users mental model, it's a no-brainer. Everyone worked with a real pencil with eraser before.
    • But even more so, charging is very crude. You need to stick the pen in your charger which looks ridiculous (and easy to trip over). I'd expect Apple creating some kind of of wireless charging solution for such a low power consuming device.
    • The tip covering the lightning connection is so easily lost! You'd expect Apple would put more thinking in how to solve that issue.
    I have been using digitizers for most of my career as a roto/effects artist and (later) as a compositor/colorist. and IMHO almost no one ever used the "eraser" end of wacom pens. It is just too much bother to have to flip the pen around (twice) just to erase. It is far easier to just have a (momentary) hotkey(s) for erase which you press with your other hand (which is typically on the keyboard or more recently on the digitizing pad (or screen) directly. The eraser simply isn't a feature used or needed by professionals. (you might want to take a look at artists pencils as well (the reals ones not virtual), no eraser there either)
  • Reply 15 of 15
    Just make it usable on a new Magic Trackpad.
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