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Apple patents a crazy stylus that senses texture to make 3D files

FiftyThree Pencil and Paper sketch
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Steve Jobs may have hated the stylus, but Apple sure has a lot of patents for awesome styli floating around the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Two recent patents detail an amazing futuristic stylus with the ability to analyze and react to different textures, create 3D images, and provide haptic feedback.

The first patent explains how an Apple stylus could use haptic feedback to mimic the experience of drawing with a real writing implement on whatever surface the user has chosen on the tablet screen. Apple came up with several different ways to achieve accurate haptic feedback, all of which are detailed in the patent.

One possible method involves a stylus with contact sensors that can tell when the stylus touches the screen. Another proposal suggests using capacitive sensors, pressure sensors, and cameras to determine the texture of the digital surface and provide the corresponding haptic feedback. For example, photodiodes could be used to tell the stylus what texture is shown onscreen, whether it’s wood, paper, glass, and fabric. The stylus could also learn what texture is being used via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

As soon as the stylus recognizes the texture in use, it will vibrate accordingly. So if you’re drawing on a smooth, glass-like surface, you won’t feel any vibration, but if you’re drawing on a rough texture like a sharp stone, rugged fabric, or wood, you’ll feel a stronger vibration.

The second patent explains how the stylus could be used to capture and transmit the texture of physical objects to the iPad or iPhone, as well as how the stylus could be used to create 3D CAD files. In this patent the stylus would be equipped with a camera module in its tip, which could detect and record the physical texture of almost any object or surface. Once the stylus records the texture, it will send it to the iPad or iPhone, and the person drawing would experience that specific texture onscreen.

Apple suggested a few ways for the stylus to capture and transmit texture. In many examples, light bounced off a textured object would move through the stylus’ clear tip or lens to a photo sensor. The stylus would then send the texture data from the object to the iPad or iPhone to recreate 3D renderings of the texture, color, and even the shape of the object.

Designers, 3D modelers, and other digital artists could use the data from the stylus to create projects and even 3D CAD files, which are used in animation and other artistic ventures.

Obviously, there’s no telling if Apple will ever make this stylus a reality, but it would be pretty amazing to say the least. Most pundits and sources agree that Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro will come with a stylus, though there’s no word on what its abilities will be.

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