The stylus is one of the understated input devices of modern times. Ridiculed by the late Steve Jobs, it has now become the star of Apple’s new iPad Pro vision. Still, there only so many things you could cram inside a small stick. Wacom put buttons, Apple places a touch sensor, and Samsung added a Bluetooth transmitter. Microsoft’s latest patent, however, definitely takes the cake by envisioning how its future Surface Pen could have not just buttons or radios but a while touch screen panel on its side.
Granted, we’ve actually seen far worse ideas and, at least on paper, Microsoft’s patent almost makes sense. When using a battery-powered stylus, the first concern most users have is knowing the remaining battery level of the pen. The second is figuring out what mode the pen is in.
The “Dynamic Interaction Adaptation of a Digital Inking Device” patent addresses those but goes the extra mile and displays anything that can be displayed on a thin slice of screen. And as Apple’s Touch Bar proved, that can be quite a lot.
More than just the status of the pen and its current settings, the screen can also display other information when not in contact with a screen or when not even paired with a computer. And in case you’re wondering, yes, it can even display email notifications or at least just a part of the email subject.
The past days, patents surrounding the Surface Pen have been, er, surfacing. One includes the pen’s ability to be deformed and then function as a Bluetooth earpiece. Of course, these are just patents, legal documents for an idea. Given Microsoft’s track record, none of these ideas, good or bad, will probably happen.