Apple Pencil
Apple Pencil, the stylus that is exclusively made for the iPad Pro. Apple

Apple could release a stylus that allows users to draw in mid-air, a patent found by Dutch site TechTastic [via Engadget] shows.

Apple has previously released an Apple Pencil for its iPad in 2015. The $99 accessory is sensitive to pressure and tilt, which allow users to vary line weight, create subtle shading and create other artistic effects.

The recent patent describes a stylus that doesn’t require users to place the accessory on an iPad to draw something. The "Content Creation Using Electronic Input Device on Non-electronic Surfaces" patent shows users would be able to draw with the stylus in mid-air not only on an iPad, but across multiple Apple products, like MacBooks and desktops.

The patent images show users can draw objects in mid air and have them transferred on computer screens. Users would also be able to write messages, like “Call Me” with the stylus and draw in different patterns, including in spiral and triangular paths.

The different types of drawing can be seen here:

apple stylus patent
Apple patent shows a stylus that allows users to draw in mid-air. WIPO

The patent says the motion of the stylus’ mid-air movement could be tracked through a few ways, either with a sensor, a camera or “an electromagnetic- or sound-based triangulation scheme.”

The patent explains:

“The position and/or motion of the input device can be tracked according to various methods including one or more of a motion and orientation sensor, a camera, or an electromagnetic- or sound-based triangulation scheme. The force data and position/motion data can be processed to generate content, including textual character input and three-dimensional objects. In some examples, the content can be generated based on tracking position and/or motion of the input device without requiring contact with a surface.”

The stylus would be able to tell when a person stops drawing by placing a button on the pencil and having users release it when they’re done. Another way to detect when a person is done writing would be with a light sensor or a capacitive sensor external to the stylus.

The patent describes the technology:

“For example, a user may pass the stylus over the external sensor between strokes to differentiate between strokes. In some examples, motion sensors within the stylus can be used to detect pauses indicative of the end of a stroke and motion indicative of the beginning of a stroke. For example, when the motion of the device exceeds a first motion threshold, the stroke can begin. When the motion of the device falls below a second motion threshold, the stroke can end.”

The patent is found in the in the database of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Apple filed the patent last July and it was published by WIPO last month. Apple files many patents, but not all of them are pursued. However, the patent shows what the company is looking into for future projects.

Apple has other patents involving styluses, including one filed last year for an iPhone pencil which can notify users when to change the tip of the accessory to avoid damage to the screen. Meanwhile, a report out of Korea last fall said Apple could release an iPhone with a stylus as early as next year.