Apple's latest patent application is for a stylus that can write in mid-air
Right now the Apple Pencil stylus only works with the iPad Pro, but it seems that Apple has bigger plans for its pointing device. The company's latest patent application shows a new device that's capable of writing on any surface it's pressed up against, and even in mid-air.
That air writing capability is made possible thanks to camera sensors mounted on top of a laptop or monitor, as per Apple's patent application, so scribblings would be recorded as the stylus is tracked through space.
The application title, "Content Creation Using Electronic Input Device on Non-Electronic Surfaces," suggests that same motion-tracking technology could be deployed to enable users to write on normal paper as well, much like the Moleskine Smart Writing set.
Another alternative input method mentioned by Apple engineers in the patent would be to use a force-sensitive nib at the tip of the stylus to record strokes and taps. The freedom of being able to move the pen around in 3D space would let users work on 3D designs as well as 2D drawings and sketches, suggests the documentation.
The application shows the stylus being used to input shapes, 3D objects, and even handwritten notes into a laptop, so this is potentially a device with a lot of different capabilities. Feedback could even be passed back to the stylus in the form of buzzes or LED lights, based on the patent application Apple has filed.
As with any patent, this is only an indication of what might be on the drawing board at Apple at the moment – there's no guarantee we'll ever see an Apple Pencil that can write in mid-air ever go on sale. Nevertheless, it's an intriguing glimpse into the way Apple sees the future of interacting with our computers and tablets.
It would also give Apple a way of standing out against its biggest rivals – Microsoft and its Surface Pen, Samsung and its S Pen (primarily for the Note 8), and the Pixelbook Pen that Google sells alongside the Pixelbook.
Don't be surprised if Apple Pencil support arrives for more iPads, iPhones, the Apple Watch, and the trackpads of Macbook laptops in the near future, as they're all depicted in the patent filing. After that, users might soon be doodling in mid-air.