Apple has filed a pair of patents that could give us a glimpse into the future of the Apple Pencil. Its new stylus is equipped with touch sensors that detect different gestures and provide new ways to interest with devices like the iPad.
The patent application, titled “Stylus with touch sensor,” was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. In it, Apple describes an intelligent new stylus that boasts a bunch of capacitive touch sensors to allow for new functionality.
The information gathered by these sensors can be translated into onscreen interface controls. For instance, when a user rotates the stylus, the same motion can be applied to an onscreen object — such as a vector in an image editing application.
“The system is able to process both single- and multi-touch gestures, which can then be used to manipulate onscreen objects,” explains AppleInsider. “Fine finger location determination opens the door to advanced device interactions.”
Sliding a finger up and down the stylus could also allow users to scroll through a webpage or document, while a flicking gesture could initiate inertial scrolling or active the pull-to-refresh function in apps like Twitter.
Apple also describes how force sensors could be used for even more accurate input. For example, gripping the stylus tightly might increase drawing precision, while squeezing could toggle virtual buttons. A pinch could allow users to select onscreen items.
In Apple’s second patent, which is titled “Electronic devices with hand detection circuitry,” the company lays out another system that uses touch sensors to establish whether a user is holding a device like the iPhone in their left or right hand.
With this information, the device could then offer a customized user interface to suit one-handed use. It could also ensure that common buttons and toggles appear on the correct side of the display so that they are easier to access with your thumb.
This would be particularly interesting with larger devices like the iPhone 6s Plus.
Of course, Apple patents are never a guarantee of things to come, so we shouldn’t read too much into these just yet. However, it’s clear that Apple is at least working to make Apple Pencil even greater, and to make its mobile devices more accessible.
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