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Steve Jobs' death clears way for vibrating Apple tool

Actually he was alive when patent was submitted, but still a surprise

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Steve Jobs famously hated the idea of styluses on tablet computers. But, er, it looks like Apple is thinking about making one given the revelations from the US Patent Office yesterday.

The Patent Office has published two pending patent applications from Apple relating to styluses that would work with iPad and iPhone: the first dubbed the "Haptic Input Device" and the second the "Optical Stylus".

Steve Jobs was actually alive when the applications were submitted November 2010: Aleksandar Pance and Omar Leung submitted the "Haptic" patent application and Leung, David Amm and David Simon applied for the "Optical" patent. But then, Jobs often changed his mind. Maybe the great man had come round to the pen idea by late 2010.

Different iPen mechanisms are sketched out in the patents. The Haptic, as the name suggests, is a sensory affair and will allow users to "feel" qualities like brush strokes and line thickness. The second idea uses a light and camera mechanism.

Buzzing pad poker

The "Haptic" patent application describes a stylus with a "haptic actuator", which will buzz or transmit subtle pressure to the user's hand according to how the pen moves. It will feature a gyroscope and accompanying audio that will imitate the sounds of a pen or brush on paper.

The camera-and-laser pad poker

The iPen sketched out in the second application is a super complicated optical piece of work. The stylus would rely on cameras, wireless channels and invisible patterns etched on the iPad screen to allow the user to create patterns in the air that would be replicated on their iPad.

Consequently, the "Optical" iPen will work whether or not it is touching the screen.

With a camera embedded in the middle of the shaft, the "Optical" uses location technology to determine the position of the pen relative to the screen.

The camera would respond to an "invisible" map overlaid on the iPad screen to work out where it was to very high degrees of accuracy. These invisible map patterns could be made with chemicals, lasers or IR ink printed on the screen.

Though the second iPen may have a pressure sensor (as seen in one of the possible iterations sketched out by the patent) it wouldn't input to the device through the touchscreen. The pressure recorded would trigger the camera/light sensor and communicate with the iPad by a wireless channel.

No more fondling those slabs fanbois, you'll be jabbing them. ®

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