Apple smart pen stylus patent
Apple patent explains how a smart pen would work US Patent and Trademark Office

Apple has been granted yet another patent detailing plans for an intelligent stylus which would translate drawing and writing movements into digital lines and text on screen.

Awarded this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the patent describes a "communication stylus" which is a writing utensil using accelerometers and wireless communication hardware to transfer handwritten notes and sketches onto the display of a computer, phone or tablet.

The iPhone and iPad maker wouldn't be the first to develop such a tool, as Livescribe's range of smart pens have offered physical-to-digital text and sketch conversion for some time, using special paper and an infrared sensor to record what's being written by the pen's regular ink nib, and saving it as a digital file.

Apple smart pen stylus patent
Apple patent describes a smart pen loaded with sensors US Patent and Trademark Office

Instead of infrared, Apple's pen uses an array of sensors to track movement and power up when it is picked up and when its nib is pressed into paper. The patent describes a pen which can be tracked at any angle, so it will accurately relay movement whether the user is writing on a table, wall or in the air. The technology also does away with the need for buying special paper, as with the Livescribe pens.

Writing can be played back instantly - useful for when a teacher is explaining something to their students, who will be able to see their work on a tablet or computer in real time - or saved and transmitted after a specific time frame; in this case, the data would be saved on the pen, before being transferred.

Apple explains in the patent filing how its stylus connects wirelessly to a "computing device" which remains in the user's bag or pocket - presumably this means a Bluetooth connection to their iPhone or iPad.

The patent includes details on how various nibs could be used with the device, for writing with ink, graphite and other materials, as well as an option for a capacitive nib to work with a touch screen.

Such a stylus would make an ideal companion device for the widely-rumoured iPad Pro, a large tablet Apple is tipped to be preparing for a launch in early to mid-2015. Combining both products will see the company take on Microsoft and its Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Apple began filing patents for a smart pen in 2010, but as with all filings, this newest one should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt - technology companies are forever designing products which never see the light of day. But it's still interesting to note how Apple is interested in styluses, despite its devices' reliance on finger-controlled touch screens.