Industry News

May 25, 2012

Haptic input interest grows for iOS

According to patents filed by Apple, the company may be looking into optical and haptic stylus input devices for iOS. While the stylus was mocked by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, according to CNET, the company is apparently exploring the possibility of using one for various device interface development possibilities. Dubbed iPens by fans, these input devices may open a multitude of new application options for drawing, freehand writing and more.

While the patent was filed in 2010, according to the news source, it was only recently made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and could possibly never see commercial development. However, with two different input styles depicted, it could also mean that Apple has decided to venture into a number of other products as well - including interactive pen displays and tablets or improved drawing tools for the iPad. Apple may also be considering the stylus as an input device for gaming GUI design.

An optic stylus would use camera pressure sensors to provide an extremely precise input control, according to AppleInsider.

"The relative position of the optical stylus may be determined based on indicia detectable by the optical stylus," the filing reads. "The indicia may further be used in determining the movement of the optical stylus. The indicia may include pixel-dependent indicia that are communicated via the pixels displayed by the touchscreen or physical or permanent indicia that are physically present on or in the screen ... [that] are imperceptible to the human eye."

A haptic stylus, on the other hand, would be able to sense varying textures, pressures and vibrations in more detail, allowing for a more realistic user interface. Haptic feedback has been a growing area of interest for the company, according to the news source, with other patents filed related to texture feedback, force measurement and more. With a haptic interface, users could potentially feel textures through their touchscreens that were uploaded by friends or part of application design.

If Apple does decide to develop a stylus for iOS input, it could be for new products entirely or for a new way to interact with current devices. These so-called iPens could also provide interesting new ways to communicate across devices, with shared notes, gestures or drawings being transmitted instantaneously - something current drawing tablets cannot do.