Put it in the "maybe someday, maybe never" file. A patent originally filed for by Apple in 2008 shows the company's work on a unique stylus for touchscreen devices
. Although Steve Jobs has been famously dismissive of styluses, this one is pretty different: equipped with a pivoting disk on the tip, pressure sensors, and even an accelerometer, it could enable new applications in digital art and gaming.
Steve Jobs has shown down through the years that he's not afraid of totally contradicting his previous statements. Back in 2004
, he said Apple would never build a handheld video player, just a year before the fifth generation iPod was released with video capabilities. He said that tablets were "only good for surfing the web on the toilet,
" before Apple revolutionized the tablet with the iPad. And at the iOS 4 event last year, he reiterated
his earlier comment about styluses and touchscreen OSes, saying that "if you see a stylus, they blew it."
The stylus described in this patent isn't a replacement for fingertip touch, though, but rather an extension of it. In the context of Jobs's remarks about styluses, it's clear that what he was talking about is interfaces that need a pointing device. This stylus extends what users can do with touch in several ways. First, the stylus would have pressure sensors that would allow the device to do different things - such as making a brushstroke bolder - depending on how hard you press against the touchscreen. The stylus itself would send this pressure information to the device via WiFi or Bluetooth. Secondly, the stylus has an accelerometer, so that the device could sense what angle you're holding the stylus at, allowing for more complex interaction in graphics and gaming apps. And the stylus also has a removable disc on the tip so that the stylus could be used in contexts where the software is expecting a fingertip rather than a pinpoint contact. The patent also describes the possibility of buttons or switches along the stylus's shaft to change modes.
As always, it's possible that Apple is just "parking" this patent, reserving the rights to it with no real intention of bringing a product to market, just collecting royalties if someone else does. However, with the iPad gaining in popularity as a graphics device, the addition of a multi-function stylus with full OS support could broaden its appeal immensely... not to mention being a boon to people with fat fingers.
Source: Patently Apple