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Apple Files Patent For "Active Stylus" For Use With Capacitive Touchscreens

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the smells-like-teen-wacom dept.

Displays 112

MojoKid writes "Apple may be looking to improve upon the stylus as we know it today. The Cupertino company filed a patent application with the USPTO for what it calls an 'Active Stylus,' which can be used on capacitive touch sensor panels like those found on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. 'Unlike conventional styluses which work passively by blocking electric field lines between the drive and sense electrodes of a capacitive touch sensor panel, the styluses disclosed in the various embodiments of this disclosure can either act as a drive electrode to create an electric field between the drive electrode and the sense lines of a mutual capacitive touch sensor panel, or as a sense electrode for sensing capacitively coupled signals from one or more stimulated drive rows and columns of the touch sensor panel or both.' According to Apple, active styluses allow for more accurate input without driving up cost."

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112 comments

I remember those (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42452929)

When my grandparents were alive they had a box with one of those.
It was made for teaching people traffic signs. You put an overlay on it and used the active stylus to touch one of the alternatives and the box would indicate green or red light depending on your answer.

Re:I remember those (0)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about a year and a half ago | (#42452995)

No. [youtube.com]

Re:I remember those (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454125)

Yes. [youtube.com]

Call me dumb... (2, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about a year and a half ago | (#42452935)

This reminds me of the old IBM light pens of yore... I really don't see much difference between this and those, or the wired pens that were used on old Gridpads in the early 1990s.

What is old is new again, I guess.

Re:Call me dumb... (4, Insightful)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42452997)

Not so much want it old is new again as much as what was already invented has been slightly modified and swallowed by the patent glutton that is apple. Let the lawsuits begin!

Re:Call me dumb... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453025)

You're dumb.

Re:Call me dumb... (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453061)

This actually reminds me of a decade old piece of military equipment- think of a ruggedized, 2" thick tablet with a 3" screen. The 'neat' thing with the stylus for this device is that it doesn't actually have to touch the screen to work. Note: It's completely insensitive to fingers and such, you have to use the stylus, but that might be some sort of sensitivity setting.

Plenty of prior art, I think.

Re:Call me dumb... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453149)

Maybe not... I remember the first palm pads and such requiring a stylus, I think somewhere along the evolution of touch screens, fingers started working. I also remember owning a tablet much more recently that let me choose between finger input, stylus pen, or a compromise of both, but the only thing I ever found different between those 3 is trying to use a finger when it's set to stylus sensitivity, led to poor accuracy.

Re:Call me dumb... (2)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42455181)

Touch tablets have been around for ages. 8-bit home computers could always be connected to an RS-232 graphics tablet.
Atari 800 had a touch tablet with Atari Paint. Wacom tablets have a stylus systems that is pressure and tilt/orientation sensitive.

Palm pilot allowed you to enter letters using a unique shorthand squiggle shape for each letter. It was quite effective and allowed you to take notes as
someone was speaking. Though, these days it's quicker just to record audio.

Re:Call me dumb... (5, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453375)

This actually reminds me of a decade old piece of military equipment- think of a ruggedized, 2" thick tablet with a 3" screen. The 'neat' thing with the stylus for this device is that it doesn't actually have to touch the screen to work. Note: It's completely insensitive to fingers and such, you have to use the stylus, but that might be some sort of sensitivity setting.

Plenty of prior art, I think.

It reminds me of a centuries old piece of equipment called a "Pencil". They were heavily used while I was in school before being replaced by newer, sleeker technology. It was pressure sensitive, and though it would work on a multidue of surfaces, it worked best only on a specially formulated screen that we called "paper". Different styluses could be used for different effects (colors, darkness/thickness of lines, etc), but most people used the plain old #2. By inverting the stylus, it had some limited "undo" capability, but there were some ghosting artifacts left behind and excessive undo use could lead to screen damage.

Re:Call me dumb... (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454233)

It reminds me of a centuries old piece of equipment called a "Pencil". They were heavily used while I was in school before being replaced by newer, sleeker technology.

They were replaced by newer tech because the price of the batteries you needed to keep them running was much higher than a complete new pencil. That meant most people simply threw them away when they were "empty". With newer LiPo batteries and lower power devices, it might be interesting to recreate these devices in rechargeable versions.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42455357)

I don't believe you because centuries ago the battery capacity has not allowed such magical "Pencil" work longer than 1 minute and would have weighted at least 2 kilos so you must be lying!

Re:Call me dumb... (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year and a half ago | (#42456675)

"It reminds me of a centuries old piece of equipment called a "Pencil"."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Pencil

Re:Call me dumb... (1)

Scoth (879800) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453629)

You're thinking of what was called an "active digitizer". It seems to have mostly been used by older Wacom tablets and Kurta. It was used by a lot of the older tablet PCs, such as the Fujitsu Stylistic and Toshiba Dynapad lines. The pen would have a battery (AAAA usually) and it'd work through some kind of electromagnetic thing. Was much nicer than the "passive digitizer" used by resistive touchscreens as it was a lot more accurate and allowed multiple buttons easily, pressure sensitivity, etc.

It's rather different but might still count enough for prior art.

Re:Call me dumb... (1)

jabelli (1144769) | about a year and a half ago | (#42456487)

No, the Wacom stuff is still an active pen; the pen is just powered by the RF field produced by the digitizer surface. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wacom#Technology [wikipedia.org]

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453683)

Ah the SKL. Drop it and it won't break, but the stylus will. Two drops = no touch input. Is a rugged style that hard to design?

Prior art: feel free to call me as a witness (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year and a half ago | (#42459279)

I did capacitive coupling work with the intent of being able to reliably reproduce gestures.

Google ended up building a robot which could do this.

I wrote a small article about it prior to the Apple patent filing in a prosthetics forum.

The article contents used to implement capacitive coupling for a gentleman in Germany with two Bochs brand artificial arms who had never been able to use the capacitive touchpad on his Thinkpad because of lack of capacitive coupling with the artificial limbs.

I'd be willing to be a witness on prior art, including functioning hardware built on that prior art, for this patent predating the filing date. I can also point you to other people who worked with the robot, and also with capacitive coupling of mechanical systems, such as this stylus, for testing purposes.at Google, Synaptics, and Samsung.

Re:Call me dumb... (5, Informative)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453197)

this is for capacitive screens

you seem to not get the concept of patents. you can't patent an idea of a stylus but a specific implementation of it. in this case using a different type of stylus on a specific type of screen

yes we have had these before, but this one is different. just like we've had 100 years of the combustion engine but car makers still get patents every year because they find new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of them.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

smi.james.th (1706780) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453669)

I stand under correction here but I'm under the impression that the motor industry doesn't bother with patents much. I don't remember who told me that or where I heard it so I can't really substantiate it...

Re:Call me dumb... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454193)

I know for a fact that the more significant motor industry inventions are patented. That's why there are more than three different implementations of each of variable valve timing and variable valve lift. Honda's VVTL mechanism is simplest and oldest, combining timing and lift adjustment in one mechanism, the others add lift adjusters onto existing VVT systems.

Re:Call me dumb... (2, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454843)

I stand under correction here but I'm under the impression that the motor industry doesn't bother with patents much. I don't remember who told me that or where I heard it so I can't really substantiate it...

Not sure who you heard it from. It's false. [iptoday.com]

In fact, one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions on patents in recent years, KSR v. Teleflex, was about patents around gas pedal sensors.

Re:Call me dumb... (3, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454709)

So it is either too specific to be worth anything (since there are already lots of capacitative styli available for phones and tablets) or the patent office granted yet another overly broad patent on something that was invented years ago.

Either way we lose.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42457979)

The currently available capacitive styluses are not significantly more accurate than a finger, which means that they are lousy for writing compared to an active Wacom stylus or a real pen. If Apple has managed to create an accurate capacitive stylus that works on a different principle then they can certainly get a patent for it.

Re:Call me dumb... (3, Interesting)

Shagg (99693) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454723)

you can't patent an idea

That's the theory, but it doesn't seem to be enforced much.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42456391)

N-Trig Duosense is used on several tablets, including my Lenovo Thinkpad tablet running Android.
http://www.n-trig.com/Content.aspx?Page=DualModeTechnology
it uses capacitive screen along with an active digitizer, also using the capacitive sensing tech I believe.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42459759)

you seem to not get the concept of patents.

And you seem to not get the idea of difference. A hint: all things are different. The real question is whether the difference is significant.

Unfortunately the PTO just basically hand waves around that one with no rational basis for what they do despite the huge amount of verbiage they generate.

No. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453211)

Did those things have an Apple logo on them?

Nope.

Therefore, they are NOT the same.

Were the light pens called "iPen" or "iGridPad"?

Nope.

Therefore, they are NOT the same.

Were those things stole....created with the divine direction of St. Steve Jobs?

Nope.

It's NOT the same!

It's new and different.

Re:No. (0)

Quila (201335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454625)

Did those things "either act as a drive electrode to create an electric field between the drive electrode and the sense lines of a mutual capacitive touch sensor panel, or as a sense electrode for sensing capacitively coupled signals from one or more stimulated drive rows and columns of the touch sensor panel or both"?

Nope. It's new and different. This is what patents are about. Apple's not claiming the stylus, but the specific technology that makes this stylus different from previous ones.

Re:No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454891)

Do you actually understand what you're quoting at all?

That quote you so nicely cherry picked is so ridiculously broad (and not to mention obvious) implementation of any sort of object to manipulate a capacitive touch screen.

A capacitive touchscreen essetially creates a uniform electro-static field. Any sort of charged conductor (i.e. your finger) or "drive elctrode" has an electric field so that when you touch the electrostatic field, you essentially form a capacitor which is then measured by some sensor controller.

Throwing the word "active" in there doesn't make the patent any less broad or obvious.

Keep drinking that Kool Aid though...

Re:No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42455369)

Did those things "either act as a drive electrode to create an electric field between the drive electrode and the sense lines of a mutual capacitive touch sensor panel, or as a sense electrode for sensing capacitively coupled signals from one or more stimulated drive rows and columns of the touch sensor panel or both"?

Nope. It's new and different.

As far as the first 1/2 of that quote is concerned that's pretty much how styluses for capacitive panels work, care to explain the second 1/2? You seem pretty convinced this is new and different so I assume you actually understand it.

Re:No. (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year and a half ago | (#42455803)

I remember one exactly like this. You could even see the bumps of the sense lines embedded in the plastic. Damned if I can remember what it was or was attached to though.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454913)

You forgot to mention that these will not cost more and thus, via iPricing, will cost more.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453303)

No, no no! Apple just invented this, and as they also hold the prior art patent, noone but them can use it.

Re:Call me dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42456619)

it is a WIRELESS light pen. totally different.

I can see it now... (1)

jtseng (4054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42452945)

Samsung sues Apple for capacitive stylus. Wouldn't Sammy win just based on prior art?!

No (4, Informative)

oGMo (379) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453107)

The Galaxy Note [wikipedia.org] series use Wacom technology [wikipedia.org] which, according to Wikipedia, was patented and is now expired. This is separate from the touchscreen, and provides stuff like pressure, tilt, and multi-device support (though I'm not sure if the latter is supported on Samsung devices). In short, it works really well, it's well-proven, and it's not patentable.

Re:No (2)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453607)

After all these years, I thought I'd finally get a digital sketchbook that didn't weigh a ton like my (very very old) Stylistic tablet. And it turns out there's no decent sketchbook Apps. The closest would have been Sketchbook Pro (Autodesk) which was the first I looked at, since the windows version was great, but for some reason, it didn't even support little "features" like adjustable orientation (landscape only, nonetheless, making it fun to hold steady in one hand....)

It was ridiculous. And without my sketchbook hopes, it was way too underpowered for the price, so I had to return it.

Offtopic, I know, go ahead and mod me down. I'm just still bummed out that my Xmas gift to myself failed. :P

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454575)

BECAUSE it's not patentable Apple wouldn't be able to prevent 3rd party devices.
That is why it's patenting something different. Sole purpose to prevent 3rd party devices.

Re:No (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454871)

The Galaxy Note [wikipedia.org] series use Wacom technology [wikipedia.org] which, according to Wikipedia, was patented and is now expired. This is separate from the touchscreen, and provides stuff like pressure, tilt, and multi-device support (though I'm not sure if the latter is supported on Samsung devices). In short, it works really well, it's well-proven, and it's not patentable.

... not patentable using the specific implementations used or disclosed by Wacom (or others). Other implementations that are new and nonobvious in view of the Wacom stuff are still patentable.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454881)

I figure that what Apple is doing is ADDING accuracy to a capacitive touch screen that is designed for fingers. Like triangulating the signal of cell phone towers to enhance GPS. The Stylus is probably detecting signal strength between more than one sensor, and then software meshes the data from the capacitors for the "general area" with the specific position of the stylus. So I doubt this is what Wacom was doing -- they calculate the position in ONE device -- not both.

Either that's what they are doing -- or I just figured out a new type of device. Likely, my 30 seconds of effort is superior to all prior art, but I guess I'm just lucky that way.

doubtfull given the history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42452977)

I am sure that if people look hard enough they will find that this already exists and apple are just up to their normal trick of trying to register something even though it already exists ..

Someone finish them off please mind you if there are enough £1million raids on their stores then retailers will start refusing to stock the junk .

now with Auto-Loss (tm)! (5, Funny)

swschrad (312009) | about a year and a half ago | (#42452979)

(6951a) Application also defines a new stylus feature, in which the apparatus for holding stylus will either randomly release the stylus, or actively eject the stylus, depending on how important it would be in selection of one of the next features of software (see 976 d,e,g,zz et al) that may come up. Application claims trademark on the definition of this feature, Auto-Loss (tm), which is filed under separate registration for protection.

What does this even? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42452987)

styluses disclosed in the various embodiments of this disclosure

First Touchscreen Laptops, Now This? (5, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453009)

I would say that St. Jobs must be rotating furiously in his grave by now, but I think the fact that this "innovation" is yet another example of Apple patenting stuff that already exists is probably enough to ease his restless spirit...

Re:First Touchscreen Laptops, Now This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453255)

Patenting stuff that already exists? So, where is this exact stylus currently available. I'll go and buy one right now, just to piss (cr)Apple off.

Re:First Touchscreen Laptops, Now This? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453311)

It's not patented, Dr. Neckbeard; it's merely been filed as an application.

Give Apple a couple more years of innovation (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453947)

and they'll come up with the "iPalm iPilot". It will be all the rage. Every corporate slave will want one. Until Apple invents something even cooler - the "iBlackberry". Your iFuture will make the past look like the dark, dark ages, my friends.

Re:First Touchscreen Laptops, Now This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454343)

Considering how things kept going pretty much the same since he died, I'd say he was nothing more than a figurehead, or he's guiding them from beyond the grave.

Re:First Touchscreen Laptops, Now This? (1)

ReeceTarbert (893612) | about a year and a half ago | (#42455421)

I would say that St. Jobs must be rotating furiously in his grave by now...

I don't know about that, but for sure he can't blush or try hard to keep a straight face about his "Who wants a stylus?" [youtube.com] remark from Macworld 2007!

RT.

Where do I stand in line to buy one? (2)

howardd21 (1001567) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453051)

I am bundling up and heading out! Which line do I stand in to buy one?

Re:Where do I stand in line to buy one? (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453127)

The one marked "people who could not be bothered to order online stand here".

Re:Where do I stand in line to buy one? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453705)

....which is a disturbingly large group, if the crowds at the store next to the Starbucks on the way to work are any indication. When Apple comes out with a new product, I have to skip coffee that morning.

There's a claim in there about IQ Mod/Demod (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453055)

In a third embodiment, in-phase/quadrature (IQ) demodulation at the sensor can be performed to circumvent the synchronization issue in a touch sensitive system where the stylus can act as a drive electrode. FIG. 6 illustrates exemplary sense circuitry 610. The sense circuitry 610 can sense a capacitance from conductive elements of a touch sensor panel that are capacitively coupled to the stylus. The stylus sensing circuitry 610 can include amplifier 670 to receive the capacitance reading from the panel, clock 640 to generate a demodulation signal, phase shifter 645 to generate a phase-shifted demodulation signal, mixer 633 to demodulate the capacitance reading with an in-phase demodulation frequency component, and mixer 687 to demodulate the capacitance reading with a quadrature demodulation frequency component. The demodulated results (i.e., the in-phase component 643 and the quadrature component 697) can then be used to determine an amplitude proportional to the capacitance. Essentially, IQ demodulation can eliminate the need to phase-synchronize the drive signal from the stylus and the output signal from the touch sensor panel. However, frequency matching may still be required in this embodiment so that the stylus can be driving at the same frequency at which the touch sensor panel is listening.

Did they really just sneak a claim for IQ mod/demod in there? Something just about every single SDR uses and I'm sure plenty of other active receiver transmitter architectures use.

Re:There's a claim in there about IQ Mod/Demod (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454801)

No. They described an embodiment (in the description, not the claims) that happens to use it. This is the part of the patent where they provide lots of additional details that aren't actually part of the claims, to make it easier for an engineer to implement the invention.

Re:There's a claim in there about IQ Mod/Demod (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42455115)

Ok, what I linked was the description. But also from the actual claims section:

14. The active stylus of claim 9, wherein one or more sense channels comprise: a sense amplifier to adjust a detected change in capacitive coupling; a clock to generate a demodulation signal; a phase shifter to shift a phase of the demodulation signal; and a set of mixers to receive the detected change in capacitive coupling and either the demodulation signal or the phase-shifted demodulation signal to demodulate the sensed voltage.

15. The active stylus of claim 14, wherein the mixer receiving the demodulation signal produces an in-phase component; wherein the mixer receiving the phase-shifted demodulation signal produces a quadrature component; and wherein the in-phase component and the quadrature component are combined to determine an amplitude proportional to a capacitance formed by the drive channel and the sense channel.

Granted that it is stating that it's for the active stylus of claim XX, using IQ to convey information isn't non-obvious and shouldn't be a claim simply because it's for a stylus. It's as stupid as someone claiming AM/FM specifically for a phone or alarm clock...

cost not going up (3, Insightful)

P-niiice (1703362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453087)

"According to Apple, active styluses allow for more accurate input without driving up cost."

Yes, cost, but not price. That's going to be driven up quite nicely, thank you.

Stylus is a weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453089)

TSA will ban them.

Kudos to the good ol' USPTO (1)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453093)

protecting the inventor yet again! Attaboy USPTO!
Whoda thunk you could put circuitry in a stylus? NOT ME!!
http://www.c64-wiki.com/index.php/Light_pen [c64-wiki.com]
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/electronic+stylus [thefreedictionary.com]
http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=4gpN4EILwz8 [youtube.com]
etc
etc
etc

Re:Kudos to the good ol' USPTO (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453309)

Two minor points. By "minor", I really mean "critical".

The USPTO doesn't control whether you can file a patent. You can file pretty much anything you want, even if there's blatantly prior art. They're only in charge of whether you're awarded the patent. Check the summary to see which one this is!

The claims are not for any stylus containing circuitry, but for a much more specific invention.

Re:Kudos to the good ol' USPTO (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about a year and a half ago | (#42455277)

The claims are not for any stylus containing circuitry, but for a much more specific invention.

Not that much more specific:

1. An active stylus, comprising: an electrode at a tip of the stylus; and powered circuitry coupled to the electrode and configured for capacitively coupling the electrode with a capacitive touch sensor panel.

Of course, this is just the initial application, so Claim 1 could be changed or dropped, leaving only some of the more specific dependent claims.

Can't I just have a bluetooth resistive TS case? (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453125)

Look, we've had a good technology that produced fairly precise readings for years. It's called (...drumroll...) "resistive touchscreens". Unfortunately, Apple made capacitive touchscreens trendy & cool, and left those among us who need higher-resolution input handicapped and crippled.

Why, for the love of God, Xenu, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, can't someone like Otterbox just laminate a resistive touchscreen onto the Defender's screen guard, add some active electronics & an independent small battery, leech USB power when charging to charge itself too, and let us have a damn resistive touchscreen that pairs via Bluetooth (or as a USB OTG HID device) and coexists in parallel with the official touchscreen? No need to screw with the mass-market-dominated plans of Samsung and HTC... by moving the resistive touchscreen to the case & making it bluetooth, it becomes something end users can acquire and add THEMSELVES without having to screw around with official manufacturer support.

Or, if not Otterbox, one of the thousands of companies in China that would otherwise make Otterbox knock-offs... something like this would be trivial to engineer, design, and make functional with Cyanogen (even if it took years to ever make it into stock Android), and it would transform the manufacturer from "another nameless company making shoddy cases for ebay sellers in Shenzhen" to "the company that makes a case that makes Asian-language input easy and functional again".

Re:Can't I just have a bluetooth resistive TS case (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453187)

They make resistive screens that aren't complete shit?

Re:Can't I just have a bluetooth resistive TS case (1)

aXis100 (690904) | about a year and a half ago | (#42456359)

They are often great with a stylus, it's just that they have poor sensitivity when used with fingers.

So keep both - capacative for low accuracy sensitive finger control, and a resistive screen for accurate stylus control. It's not rocket science.

Re:Can't I just have a bluetooth resistive TS case (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42456899)

^^^ Exactly. Capacitive is ok for blunt selections, but are pure agony for precise selection. Personally, I used to solve both problems by slightly shaping my right index finger into a subtle, blunt point so it worked nicely as an adhoc stylus.

OK, I'll be honest... I'm a hardcore Graffiti user, and the official version for Android seems to be getting worse and worse by the year... partly due to apps that try to do Ajax lookups after each stroke, partly due to over-aggressive CPU governors that treat the appearance of a soft input area as an excuse to drop the speed down to 200mhz, and partly because it has no way to disable foreign accented letters & it's over-eager to recognize carriage returns. It pisses me off that a slow 16mhz Dragonball could achieve 99.9% accuracy, but my 1.5ghz quadcore s3 can't tell the fscking difference between 'm' and 'e' (written as backwards '3'), or between 'o' and 'g' (written as letterside-6). Actually, it almost feels like they recently re-weighted it towards Graffiti-2, because its worst recognition seems to be with the true single-stroke variants... which, of course, are the ones I use. Sigh.

I swear, I'm going to gut an old Palm III and transplant the Dragonball & Graffiti-pad to a hacked-up case and interface it to my Android phone via USB-OTG or bluetooth. Or make my own homebrew input method consisting of a M68k emulator running original assembly-language Graffiti ripped from a Palm III rom. I generally love my Galaxy S3, but its Graffiti error rate is TERRIBLE compared to older versions on my older phones. My creaky old HeroC overclocked to 711mhz has butter-smooth and accurate Graffiti... my S3 has me swearing in frustration trying to type the exact same text, and my old Photon & Epic4g aren't much better. I almost think multitouch capacitive controllers are partly to blame, because Graffiti's ability to work seems to be inversely related to touchscreen sophistication... :-(

Re:Can't I just have a bluetooth resistive TS case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453217)

Personally.. I hate resistive touch screens and have for years. Need adjusting over time, the edges can be a bitch to hit, work like crap if they're dirty and work even worse than capacitive if your fingers are dry.

Re:Can't I just have a bluetooth resistive TS case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454069)

They do, however, work nicely with pens.

ARRoo??? why would this be needed?? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453233)

okay so you have 40cents worth of "stuff" in a stylus which means exactly WHAT?

1 you can fake pressure sensing by turning up the gain

2 you can do a 1 "finger" pinch/zoom by slewing the "clock"

3 you can get down to Retina Pixels

or what exactly??

Styluses or Styli? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453279)

I could see using "stylus" as the plural of stylus, but not "styluses". I'm really not a grammar Nazi. I don't know why this bugged me so much to make a comment.

Re:Styluses or Styli? (1)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454597)

stylii technically.

Re:Styluses or Styli? (1)

pthisis (27352) | about a year and a half ago | (#42459813)

stylii technically

That would be the plural of the (nonexistent) word stylius. "styli" with one i is better, technically.

I got a kick out of the article: "Unlike conventional styluses which work passively by blocking electric field lines between the drive and sense electrodes of a capacitive touch sensor panel"

Um, no. Conventional styluses [sic] work by scraping wax or clay out of a groove so that the groove is visible to later observers.

Do those require power? (3, Interesting)

Improv (2467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453289)

One of the nice things about the Wacom tablets (typing this while looking into a 21" Wacom Cintiq) is that the stylus doesn't require any power. A quick glance at the patent application above has me seeing "power source" in the pen. I'm not that enthused.

I realise my Cintiq is damned expensive so the criticism above might not apply fully, but I don't feel I'm losing out on accuracy with my non-"Active Stylus" device.

Re:Do those require power? (1)

jepaton (662235) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453429)

The pen for Wacom tablets is powered from the tablet itself. This is how pressure detection and buttons can work on the pen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wacom#Technology [wikipedia.org]

The Apple patent states:

"Additionally, the sense circuitry 704 can be connected to a power source 706, such as a battery, built in the stylus. In another embodiment, power can be supplied from a power source in another electronic device, such as a touch sensing device, via a cable connecting the stylus to the device, or via inductive coupling.".

Re:Do those require power? (3, Insightful)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453545)

A company I used to work for lost a patent battle with Wacom about those self-powered pens. We ended up having to use powered pens to avoid their patent.

The whole field of digitizers - which grew up in the '70s and reached it's peak in the '80s and is used now in devices like the Smart board (http://smarttech.com/smartboard) - explored active stylii extensively. RF, Capacitive, and Resistive digitizers were all invented, explored, patented in those eras. It would be very surprising if this invention doesn't duplicate patents that issued thirty years ago.

Innovation, indeed.

Re:Do those require power? (1)

nuonguy (264254) | about a year and a half ago | (#42458699)

Hey! No one cares!

We're here to hate on apple. Keep your history and information to yourself. Unless you can use it to make us hate on apple some more.

Re:Do those require power? (1)

nine-times (778537) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453921)

I realise my Cintiq is damned expensive so the criticism above might not apply fully, but I don't feel I'm losing out on accuracy with my non-"Active Stylus" device.

Really? I see lots of ways that my current non-"Active Stylus" could be improved, though I'm not sure if this "Active stylus" addresses them all. Being able to measure pressure angle would be helpful. I suppose "pressure" could be measured by having a smooshable tip and having the touchscreen be able to measure the surface area of contact, but that could still run into problems if you're using fingers/styluses of varying sizes and smooshiness.

I've been thinking, though, that there's potential in even getting the touchpad to tell the difference between a finger and the stylus. For painting/drawing applications, you could set them so that the stylus draws a line, and then you can use your fingers to smudge the line, without stopping to change settings in the program. The program could just know, the stylus draws while non-stylus touches smudge. I'm sure that's not the only neat thing that could be done by distinguishing what device is entering the touch input, but it's the first that comes to mind for me.

Re:Do those require power? (1)

Rakishi (759894) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454371)

Huh? The Cintiq can measure pressure, angle of contact, if a button on the pen is pressed and which end of the pen is used with a resolution that is damn near unbeatable.

Re:Do those require power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42458969)

Don't forget Rotation of the pen if you are using the Art Pen, and the wheel for the Air brush. Not much that the Cintiq, or any wacom tablet doesn't measure depending on the stylus you are using.

Re:Do those require power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42457205)

I realise my Cintiq is damned expensive so the criticism above might not apply fully, but I don't feel I'm losing out on accuracy with my non-"Active Stylus" device.

And the Galaxy Note 10.1 is actually quite cheap and from personal experience offers similar levels of performance. Unfortunately you can't put your hand down or the capacitive screen takes over, and the stylus is small, but my point being the Cintiq isn't expensive because of the technology, it's expensive because it's a niche product.

If you see a stylus they blew it. (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453307)

Yes Steve Jobs, Apple has been blowing it since you left the world.

Send in the hounds! (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453331)

HTC [cnet.com] is priming it's legal team as we speak

WACOM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42453365)

Hasn't WACOM done this for years with their pens?

Perhaps the only thing changed in the patent is capacitive instead of inductive?

Wii uDraw is prior art (2)

ichthus (72442) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453373)

Prior art here [wikipedia.org]

The uDraw is capacitive, not resistive. I know, because I work for the company whose capacitive ASIC is in the uDraw.

Also, anyone who's signed their signature at a point of sale terminal (credit card swipe machines in grocery/hardware stores) that isn't resistive, has seen prior art.

And they'll name it (2)

ByteSlicer (735276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453445)

iLiner

Hey Apple! (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453553)

The 1990's called and want their stylus's back, they also thought touchscreen was the rage now, you were lording over it during the 2000's.

Re:Hey Apple! (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453971)

And if the MS surface steals market share, Apple will hastily develop an iPad/MacbookAir hybrid looking eerily similar to the eMate 300.

An Apple product with a stylus - we're back to where we were 15 years ago with the Newton. Sculley was right after all?! :-)

Good active styli (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42453611)

Active styli are hardly new. There are many good active styli, mostly for serious artists. [nytimes.com] The best sense both pressure and angle. Some have buttons for airbrush-like use. Some come in groups, so you can have a different stylus for each color.

The i[Phone|Pad] is poorly suited for stylus use, because it's intended to sense fat fingers, and there's a minimum contact width of about 4mm. So the business ends of Apple-compatible styli are blunt instruments, more like erasers than pen points.

Re:Good active styli (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454047)

Personally I like the graphics tablets best for precision work. I got one for my wife a couple of years ago (for doing quilt design) and they are great little devices but a bit on the spendy side ($50 to $100 for a decent one). For what they are meant to be used for they are awesome devices and I have taken to using it when I am touching up photos or doing GIS work as it makes things easier.

I had an 'active' stylus on my Wacom eons ago (1)

kawabago (551139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454167)

This doesn't sound like an original idea at all! At best this is an incremental upgrade to a stylus, easily foreseen by earlier 'real' inventions. Eliminate all patents, the system just isn't working. The only people who think the system is working are patent lawyers because they've never been busier! Of course they love the current system, they're all getting rich on it!

Exists already (1)

tsa (15680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454271)

The wife of a friend of mine has been using one of those on the iPad 1 for a few years now. She doesn't like touching the screen with her fingers.
Oh and see here: http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/10/2925937/best-stylus-ipad-review [theverge.com]

Re:Exists already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454793)

OMG
I Found one of these about 6 months ago.
I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was for.
I thought it was some sort of makeup tool and threw it out. (It had flowery/ladys style)
Thanks for the post/link!!!!

Re:Exists already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42456393)

The wife of a friend of mine has been using one of those on the iPad 1 for a few years now. She doesn't like touching the screen with her fingers.

She did see the iPad ads before she bought one right?

Wearable Device (1)

donweel (304991) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454491)

This is probably part of the wearable device Apple is working on. Most likely believed to be a watch. I had a Citizen Calculator watch a long time ago that used a stylus. As I understand it Apple and Intel are working on this watch or wrist device together.

Why do you need a stylus? (2)

MrBippers (1091791) | about a year and a half ago | (#42454497)

When you can just use a sausage [tomsguide.com] .

This shouldn't be patentable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42454741)

"According to Apple, active styluses allow for more accurate input without driving up cost."

Except for Apple who would be driving up the cost through their licensing should it be patented.

The verb is input. The means like a gesture or voice command shouldn't be patentable.

Same as POS stylus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42456579)

oh yeah just like the stylus that have been shipping in Point Of Sale terminals for 15 years.

Sylus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42456701)

Is my finger a stylus under this patent? Just sayin'...

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