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Apple submits surprise optical stylus patent application
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 8:06am

In a surprise, an Apple patent application for an optical stylus has turned up on the USPTO website. Steve Jobs had derided the stylus as an input method for the iPhone and the iPad once famously saying that ‘If you need a stylus, you’ve already failed.’ However, Jobs was well known for throwing the opposition a curve ball from time to time speaking out against an idea, only to have been developing a concept behind the scenes. One example was when he said that consumers liked having a separate iPod while also carrying their phone, only to reveal the ultimate convergence device in the iPhone a couple of years later.

Until the emergence of this patent application, it has been widely believed that Apple would never deliver its own purpose-made stylus for its iOS devices. Third-party styli have sold quite well for the iPad, with a number of vendors offering different solutions. However, none of these work as well as the S Pen Samsung co-developed with Wacom for its Galaxy Note 5.3 (also due to make an appearance on the Galaxy Note 10.1). Further, the success of the Galaxy Tab 5.3, which has shipped 5 million units in its first five months on the market has captured wide-spread attention. The Apple patent application describes a stylus that incorporates image capture along with an on-board image processor, while also capable of sensing pressure. It would include an accelerometer and an antenna to help relay the relative position of the stylus in relation to the device. Also included is haptic feedback to help the user sense how much pressure they are applying. Apple is also well-known to file patents for products, or technologies, that may never see the light of day. However, creative professionals, and other users would probably welcome an Apple stylus if it was released. The aftermarket stylus ecosystem the iPad and the iPhone, along with an interesting stylus project at Kickstarter and the forthcoming Adonit Jot Touch suggests that the demand is indeed there. [via Engadget]

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  • Reader reaction
    Found 14 comments
    if apple does a stylus 350227
    it will be the sexiest stylus we have ever seen, and we will love it because it just works.
    Comment posted by: Herod
    Wow. Very wrong. 350229
    The quote isn't "If you need a stylus, you've already failed." - it's "If you see a stylus, they blew it."
    Comment posted by: Zkatz007
    "Curve ball"? 350231

    >>>Jobs was well known for throwing the opposition a curve ball from time to time speaking out against an idea, only to have been developing a concept behind the scenes.

    In other words, Steve Jobs was full of hypocritical BS.

    Comment posted by: wrenchy
    wrenchy 350232
    Funny that you of all people mention bs in a negative way...

    And yes, with companies like Samsung constantly copying work, Apple has to lie in order to release new products.
    Comment posted by: DaJoNel
    In other words... 350234
    You don't know what the hell you're talking about. Please STFU and get lost, droidfucker.
    Comment posted by: thnikkaman
    Hey Wrenchy; 350241
    stop angering the elders!

    You of all people should know Mr. Jobs invented all things kool!
    Comment posted by: Arne_Saknussemm
    Just one thing... 350242
    When Apple comes out with a stylus on the iPhone or iPad;
    will ALL iFans admit it came AFTER the Galaxy Note 5.3?

    Or will Samsung's stylus incorporation into the highly successful Note be part of some time travel plot where Samsung sent spies to the future to get a hold of Apple tech and incorporate it into the Note thus fooling an external observer into believing Samsung came up with the design & tech BEFORE Apple did?
    Comment posted by: Arne_Saknussemm
    Ah, even one more thing... 350243
    You can get a replacement Galaxy Note 2.3 Stylus for about $15.
    The Galaxy Note 10.1 Costs about $30. It has a second programmable button and works as an eraser when you flip it.

    Both have no batteries or any optical elements to get dirty.
    They are essentially a passive transponder with very simple and rugged electronics.

    Actually less expensive than some professional mechanical drafting pen/pencils.

    How much would a replacement stylus with the Apple patent be worth? Add to that Apple's premium...

    A stylus with Apple's patent not only would be more complex,
    require batteries, need some maintenance of the optics, and obviously be quite a bit more expensive than practically any current project on KickStarter.

    In short a Kludge.
    Comment posted by: Arne_Saknussemm
    Ok this IS the last one... 350244
    You probably do not know this unless you have used a Cintiq, but the high end tablets can even derive 2 axis inclination information from the inductive layer conductors and the pen coils, with no need for accelerometers...

    And of course since the whole thing is based on electromagnetic inductance, the display can track the stylus position OVER opaque media that you would like to trace over.

    Apple should just license the Artists already use and love found in the Cintiq tablets,
    Wacom inductive layer.

    It would turn the awesome 3.2 megapixel display on the iPad into an artist dream come true.
    Comment posted by: Arne_Saknussemm
    Hi DaJoNel; 350245
    My dear sock puppet master,
    is just imagining the Apple marketing machine:

    Apple Makes the Stylus for the rest of us!

    Apple turns the failed Stylus into a success!

    The Stylus is finally mightier than the finger!

    Blah Blah Blah.

    And ALL (most really, you and a couple others are somehow special..) iFans will chant in unison how it all was part of the secret Jobsian plan...
    Comment posted by: Arne_Saknussemm
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