Apple is developing a stylus for the iPad, featuring haptic and audio feedback, according to a patent released to the public on 24 May.

Apple iPad stylus
(credit: PatentlyApple)

The patent explains in detail plans for an 'Optical Pen' for use with a 'Future iPad', despite the late Steve Jobs hating the idea of a stylus for touchscreen devices. "Who wants a stylus?" he exclaimed when announcing the original iPhone in 2007.

What's interesting about the 'iPen' patent is how the device logs its location on the screen by using a camera or some form of optical sensor

Patently Apple explains that the stylus would be designed to work alongside inputs from a finger: "The optical stylus works in addition to capacitive sensing, may provide sub-millimeter scale resolution and, in some embodiments, may have a pointed tip to provide precision input."

Styluses have come back into fashion recently, with Samsung providing a stylus with the part-smartphone, part-tablet Galaxy Note.

According to the patent, the stylus would communicate with the iPad in a number of ways to determine its location on the screen and the angle it is held at.

"Apple states that the optical stylus is provided with an optical sensor or camera that may determine a relative location, angle and/or movement of the stylus with respect to a display a computing device.

"The optical stylus may be configured to transmit the location, angle and movement to the computing device," Patently Apple explains.

Apple iPad stylus
(credit: PatentlyApple)

There are currently a number of styluses for the iPad on sale, but they rely purely on capacitive touch to transmit inputs to the screen - exactly the same as using a finger - but we've found them to be inaccurate, making writing difficult.

To judge where the pen is and at what angle, the iPad's screen would be covered in tiny patterns or codes - such as a QR code - not visible to the human eye. These patterns would be seen by a camera on the stylus to give an incredibly accurate estimation of where on the screen it is.

Haptic feedback is also mentioned in the patent filing, which could have the potential to provide users feedback to their actions.

Patently Apple add: "For example, haptic feedback may confirm the user's selection of a particular item, such as a virtual icon or a button, or may be provided when the user's iPen is positioned over a selectable item.

"The iPen may also provide a haptic output when the device is over, near or passes the boundary of a window or application shown on a display, or when the device is over, near or passes a graphic item having a particular texture."

We should note that Apple files many patents and only a few every become real products, so while the idea of an iPen is interesting, the company may decide to abandon the idea if it doesn't translate into the perfect product.