Hated, vilified and left to fend for itself in the 90s, the stylus hasn’t had it easy. Microsoft’s going to attempt to change this though, with a stylus that should work on any touch device. The tech behind it is utterly fascinating, so let’s dig in and see what Microsoft has planned for us.
For a stylus to work, there needs to a be micro-level of hardware interaction between the hardware on the stylus and the tech of the screen. So there’s no chopping and changing, just cold, hard compatibility. The ultra-compatible stylus though will work on any touch surface.
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Two researchers, Anoop Gupta and Andreas Nowatzyk decided to cram a tiny camera into the head of the stylus. The camera reads off pixels as the users controls the style, tracking cursor movement at an unprecedented level, hopefully. It’s eerily similar to products like the Echo Smartpen, but infinitely cleverer.
Not pictured: the stylus. Pictured: a bunny
More of the design: the camera is at a slant on the Microsoft Stylus, so it can detect various angles based on the users hand movement. Fancy, and precise.
It’s a learning stylus as well. For the stylus to detect where it is in relation to the cursor, it uses the average brightness of surrounding blue pixels to plot its location. As such, the stylus would work on ultra-high res displays such as the new iPad.
For the stylus to work, new technology needs to be invented. Or to put it plainly, an image sensor of 512×512 needs to be somehow created and stuck inside the head of a stylus. Current image sensors, such as the ones found on an infrared mouse. The developers hinted at the production of an advanced image sensor, saying “It’s currently being looked at in other groups inside Microsoft.”
Right now, there’s a working prototype of the works-for-every-device-under-the-sun stylus, albeit with dumbed down tech. The developers created a stylus, filled with wire coil which is detectable by an LCD with radio antennas affixed to each corner. It’s not ideal, but it works. Currently there are no plans for the stylus to make it into production, but this is a juicy slice of the future we have to experience. Go go gadget stylus.