Latest Apple patents hint at souped-up Apple Pencil that can measure 3D objects

Another week, another set of patents awarded to Apple. Last week, we saw patents from the company related to haptic notifications, the use of enzymes to make a phone more waterproof, and a new coloration technique for titanium. Now, there are two new patents to go over — both of which relate to the Apple Pencil.

Rumors indicate that Apple is working on an improved Apple Pencil for upcoming iPad models, so it’s possible that the technology described in the patents could be unveiled soon. Or, it’s also possible that it could show up in the third-generation of Apple Pencil, or even later. Here’s a look at the two patents, and what they mean.

An Apple Pencil with exchangeable modules

The first patent relates to modules on the Apple Pencil that can be removed and replaced as a way to change the functionality of the device. The newly filed document is actually aimed at claiming the patent from a provisional document filed by Apple in 2016 — companies can file provisional documents that don’t mature into fully granted patents until they file additional documents. That’s what Apple has done here.

Regardless of the document type, the patent is still pretty interesting. There are a few reasons you might want an Apple Pencil with an exchangeable module. The first and most obvious benefit is battery life — if your Apple Pencil’s battery runs out, you can simply screw in an additional module and get a fully recharged device. Apart from that, however, the patent describes that a module could have a small display showing graphical information or virtual buttons, and so on.

Using the Apple Pencil to measure objects

The second patent relates to using the Apple Pencil for measuring things in the real world — not just objects on the display. The patent describes the Apple Pencil calculating positioning data using things like acceleration, the device’s orientation, and more. The patent also notes that the device can be used to create three-dimensional illustrations by using that positioning data.

This patent is also aimed at claiming the benefit of provisional documents filed in 2016.

Both of these new features would be very interesting to see in a new Apple Pencil — but we’ll have to wait and see whether or not they show up. Apple is holding an event on March 27, and rumors indicate that it will be the launch event for some new iPads.