The race is definitely on to find that breakthrough ePen design that will finally deliver deadly accurate handwriting capabilities for smartphones and tablets. Microsoft, Samsung, Apple and many others are in fact in a race to advance the stylus so that writing and drawing on future smartphones and tablets could be as real as a pen on paper. One of Microsoft's latest inventions covers an Electromagnetic 3D Stylus that will be able to be used for accurate handwriting as well as deadly accurate 3D CAD drawings. Microsoft shows us that the 3D stylus will be able to work in multiple layers of space above the display. The secret to Microsoft's invention is that they use one time secret military technology.
Microsoft's Patent Background on Electromagnetic Motion Tracking
Many mobile devices, such as tablet computers, utilize a touchscreen interface instead of a traditional keyboard interface. However, many touchscreen interfaces lack the precision necessary to capture detailed drawings and/or writings (e.g., cursive handwriting). In some cases, a stylus (or other writing utensil) may be used in order to improve the precision of a touchscreen interface. A stylus may be used in combination with either a resistive touchscreen interface or a capacitive touchscreen interface. A resistive touchscreen (i.e., one that detects changes in resistance) may sense where a stylus has made contact with a surface of the touchscreen. A capacitive touchscreen (i.e., one that detects changes in capacitance) may sense where a stylus has made contact with or has come close to a surface of the touchscreen.
Electromagnetic motion tracking technology based on near field electromagnetic propagation has been developed in the context of military applications. For example, electromagnetic coupling has been used to sense the position and/or orientation of a helicopter pilot's helmet during flight. The helmet tracking technology uses three transmitting coils and three receiving coils. The three transmitting coils and the three receiving coils both comprise three coils orthogonal to each other. The three transmitting coils are fixed with respect to a particular coordinate system inside the cockpit of the helicopter. The three receiving coils are attached to the pilot's helmet.
As the pilot turns his or her head, an induced voltage across each of the three receiving coils may be sensed in order to determine the strength and direction of the magnetic field generated by each of the three transmitting coils. By relying on mathematical models (e.g., derived from equations developed from near field or far field electromagnetic theory) of the magnetic fields generated by each of the three transmitting coils, the helmet tracking system may determine the distance and orientation of the three receiving coils relative to the particular coordinate system inside the cockpit of the helicopter.
A New Approach to Designing a Modern Day Stylus
Technology described in Microsoft's patent filing relates to providing a stylus system in which the three-dimensional position and orientation of a stylus operating within a volume located above a surface of a display device is determined.
In some embodiments, the stylus system includes a stylus and a display device. The stylus senses one or more magnetic fields generated from a set of transmitting coils associated with the display device and transmits sensing information over an RF channel to a receiver in a display device – such as a tablet. The tablet determines the three-dimensional position of the stylus by applying a cell-based position reconstruction technique that compares the received sensing information with predetermined magnetic field values associated with one or more predetermined regions located above the surface of the display device. The cell-based position reconstruction technique accommodates magnetic field distortions due to the presence of conductive elements within or near the display device.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 noted below depicts a tablet device, though the technology described in the filing applies to both mobile and non-mobile devices. The display device includes a touchscreen interface with two physical control buttons noted at the bottom of the display on the left.
A stylus may be utilized to provide input information to the tablet's display either by directly touching the touchscreen interface or by being positioned above the surface of the touchscreen interface. The stylus may comprise any writing utensil such as a pen-type stylus or a finger stylus.
In patent FIG. 3A noted above, we see that the tablet on the right includes a series transmitting coils 321-328 on all sides of the tablet. Each of the multiple transmitting coils may comprise a magnetic field generating element. Each of the transmitting coils may generate a magnetic field via electromagnetic induction.
In one example, a particular transmitting coil could include one or more wires wound around a core. The core may comprise of a ferrite core. Applying a drive signal to the particular coil may cause a current to flow through the one or more wires associated with the particular coil.
Microsoft filed their patent application on June 28, 2011 and the US Patent Office published it in January 2012. Below are patent figures associated with Microsoft's invention. For those wishing to review the details of this invention in relation to the graphics below could do so by exploring patent application 20130002614.
Microsoft has invented a number of next generation ePen designs which Patent Bolt has covered in reports noted below:
Today's invention illustrates that Microsoft is utilizing military technologies based on electromagnetics. The fact that a user could work in a 3D space above the display is very interesting.
According to Microsoft's filing "By sensing the position and orientation of a stylus and determining whether the stylus is in contact with a surface of a display device or within a particular region located above the surface of the display device, additional stylus input may be obtained. For example, hovering within a particular region above the surface of a display interface may correspond with a pointing or scrolling action, whereas touching the surface of the display interface may correspond with a selection or writing action. Further, 3D objects associated with a 3D display may be manipulated using a stylus when it is located above a display surface thereby enabling 3D user interfaces for applications such as 3D computer-aided design programs and 3D gaming applications.
Microsoft and others like Apple are trying to advance multitouch display accuracy in conjunction with a modern day stylus so as to provide their respective tablet users with the option to write and/or draw with real life accuracy. Today's styluses act more like thick crayons.
At the end of the day, the sheer number of patents being filed in this one area of technology clearly indicates that these technology leaders know very well that this potential killer app could make or break their platform. The race is definitely on for a killer smart pen solution.
The Patent Bolt blog presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patent Bolt reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.