The trusty Surface Pen, constant companion of Microsoft’s entire Surface lineup, is overdue for an update, and it looks like Microsoft knows that. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen quite a few patent filings sneak their way out of Redmond, Washington. On Friday, we caught a couple more. Microsoft filed patents for two features that could mean we’re going to see a new Surface Pen sooner rather than later.
First up, Microsoft filed a patent for a feature the Surface Pen should probably have already had: The ability to erase. More specifically, the patent outlines a method for using the opposite end of the pen — where you might find an eraser on an actual pencil — as a pressure sensitive eraser. It’s interesting and could end up making the Surface Pen a lot more intuitive in everyday use. Need to erase something? Just flip the pen around like you would an actual writing implement.
The patent details that the problem for such a use-case has been precision. Without sensors in the tail end of the Surface Pen, it wouldn’t have been able to erase as precisely as it should have — especially for creative uses, where a fine eraser is a tool you might need regularly. The design outlined in this patent filing attempts to rectify that by embedding sensors in the tail-end portion of the Surface Pen, so it will be nearly as sensitive as the tip of the pen.
Speaking of which, Microsoft filed another patent that doesn’t seem that interesting on the surface, but could mean we’ll see a more radically revamped Surface Pen than we were anticipating. This patent filing describes an “elastomeric pen tip” for the Surface Pen, in contrast to its current tip which is made out of conductive plastic. The elastomeric tip would be more pressure sensitive, have a smoother feel, and it would be more durable. The patent filing describes that the conductive plastic tip sometimes has a bad habit of breaking when it’s dropped or used too vigorously.
As you can see from the drawings here, this new injection-molded elastomeric pen tip looks more like the soft-touch tip from the competing Apple Pencil, and a lot less like the rigid, fine-point tip on the current Surface Pen. Usually it’s hard to tell whether or not something in a patent filing will end up making its way to store shelves, but given the fact that Surface Pen hasn’t seen a major update since it was launched, and these patents just keep rolling out, it’s clear that Microsoft is spending some time seriously rethinking the Surface Pen.