Patent for Apple Pencil includes an embedded camera, biometric sensor, mic, and gesture controls
A patent application filed by Apple with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization (via 9to5Mac) might give us an idea about what to expect from the Apple Pencil in the near future. The patent application is called "Touch-Based Input For Stylus" and explains how a low-profile touch sensor can be placed on a stylus with tactile input entered "at the user's natural grip location." A touch sensor found on the stylus can read certain gestures.
In the patent application, Apple says "the touch sensor can be used to detect a tap, double-tap, triple tap, or another tap gesture by the user. For example, as a user applies a finger at the grip region, the stylus can detect the resulting capacitance that is induced in the touch sensor. The user can subsequently lift the finger, and the stylus can detect the resulting capacitance or change in capacitance that is induced in the touch sensor...The sequence of inputs within a span of time can be interpreted by the stylus as a user's tap gesture...one or more taps can be interpreted as a user input to change a characteristic (e.g., color, size, width, thickness, shape, etc.) of a marking produced by use of the stylus with the external device. By further example, one or more taps can be interpreted as a user input to perform functions on the external device, such as a copy function, a paste function, an undo function, and/or a redo function."
Apple envisions a biometric scanner, a camera, and a microphone on the Apple Pencil
The stylus could employ a capacitive sensor to guard against unintentional taps and could also read a "rolling gesture." That would refer to the user moving his finger around the circumference of the stylus or the rolling movement of the stylus' housing. Apple also wanted to make sure that the patent covered every possible item it could include on a stylus, so it threw everything it could think of into the application such as "one or more of a processor, a memory, a power supply, one or more sensors, one or more communication interfaces, one or more data connectors, one or more power connectors, one or more input/output devices, such as a speaker, a rotary input device, a microphone, an on/off button, a mute button, a biometric sensor, a camera, a force and/or touch-sensitive trackpad, and so on."
Apple filed a new patent application for the Apple Pencil
A future Apple Pencil could include a fingerprint scanner perhaps to verify information for Apple Pay, an App Store purchase or when opening certain banking or financial apps while using the accessory. One does have to wonder whether this patent application indicates that after several false rumors, the Apple Pencil will finally be iPhone bound. Now would be the time for Apple to add Pencil support for its handsets with several expected revisions taking place for the 2020 iPhone models. You might recall that last August, case maker Olixar posted renders of a new iPhone case for the 2019 iPhone units that included a sleeve to house an Apple Pencil. The stylus was not announced by Apple for the latest iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models.
We've seen Apple apply for various patents over the years for new Apple Pencil features. One that Apple filed in 2018 imagines the use of ultrasound to improve the accuracy of the device. Another one from back in 2015 called for the use of haptic feedback technology to mimic the feeling of writing on paper. And yet another patent filed that same year discussed placing an image sensor on the tip of the Apple Pencil to capture photos and videos.
Illustration of the Apple Pencil from Apple's new patent application
If Apple does finally cave and produces an Apple Pencil for the iPhone, we'd imagine that it would be compatible with the "Pro" models only and might only be available as a separate accessory purchase.
Things that are NOT allowed: