Apple Explores Next-Gen ‘Ultrasonic’ Tech for Apple Pencil 

Apple Pencil 2 Concept Credit: AppleiDesigner
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It’s been nearly three-years since Apple released its first stylus device for iPad Pro. And while the Apple Pencil is still years ahead of its time, featuring the latest Bluetooth along with advanced precision and pressure-sensing technologies, we’ve been hearing an awful lot about a redesigned and more advanced Apple Pencil 2 in recent months, courtesy of mumblings from the rumor mill and a trail of patents suggesting it’s in the works.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday morning published a duo of new Apple patents — one of which appears to lend even further credence to the imminence of an Apple Pencil 2, and the other to an advanced technology the company is exploring as a way to possibly enhance its future touchscreen displays.

Ultrasonic Apple Pencil Technology 

Titled “Ultrasonic Touch Detection on Stylus,” Apple’s first patent (No. 20180284946) outlines the technical details of a next-generation Apple Pencil, which is said to employ multiple rows of “ultrasonic transducers” around its outer chassis to help better calibrate a user’s movement, location and pressure, thereby allowing for more advanced input and output options on compatible touchscreens.

“Apple’s invention will be able to advance a next generation of Apple Pencil by outfitting it with one or more ultrasonic transducers configured to determine the location of one or more objects in contact with the input device,” Patently Apple explains, noting how this would allow the stylus to communicate with a touchscreen display more accurately and precisely in terms of force, orientation, tilt and more.

“The accuracy of Apple Pencil movements will provide the user a more natural feel closer to pen and paper,” the publication added.

USPTO via Patently Apple

Apple’s patent FIG. 6A (above) illustrates a next-generation Apple Pencil outfitted with “a plurality of ultrasonic transducers” (#610) — each of which can be individually configured to transmit and receive ultrasonic waves.

What Does This Mean for Apple Pencil 2?

Given their touch-sensitive nature of interaction, however, it’s presumable their presence would be to help a user gain better control of the stylus for optimum precision.

This data could then be used (theoretically speaking) to allow apps that rely on stylus input to alter what happens when a user taps, drags or performs some other action with the stylus pressed up against the display. For instance, by twisting the stylus and/or shifting the grip, a user could potentially change the thickness of a pen stroke in an art program.

Ultrasonic Displays

While the use of ultrasonic technology to bring about improved touch detection has potential, it’s unlikely Apple will bring these new capabilities to Apple Pencil anytime soon — at least not without improving the touch-sensing performance of its touchscreen displays, first.

And that brings us to the second Apple patent published by the USPTO this morning. 

Titled “Composite Cover Material for Sensitivity Improvement of Ultrasonic Touchscreens,” Apple’s patent (No. 20180284947) describes how an “ultrasonic layer” of film could either supplement, or outright replace, Apple’s existing capacitive-based touch displays to dramatically improve touch performance and responsiveness on future devices like iPhone and iPad.

There’s no telling if or when either of these inventions will come to fruition; as we all know, Apple is granted far more intellectual property than it produces on the assembly line.

Still, as technology and innovation continue to move forward before our eyes, it’s interesting to read into and explore these emerging patents — the innovations they propose — and realize they could very easily become reality one day.


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