Apple patent hints at future possibilities for the Apple Pencil

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9207833) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a “collaboration system” that hints at future users for the Apple Pencil introduced for the iPad Pro. Or perhaps an “offspring” of the pen.

The pen would be used with an electronic whiteboard. The patent also mentions using a pen with a “personal computer.” Whether Apple is referring to the iPad Pro, future Macs with touch support or something else entirely is unclear.

The patent is for a collaboration system provides enhanced user interface that, among other things, would allow users to add content to a digital system by using a pen that streams coordinates so that input to the digital system may be based on conventional pen and paper handwriting. 

The invention also includes a pie-based menu system for input to a large display area digital devices in which an occluded portion of the pie-based menu system is not used for direct input by the user. The selection of which areas of the pie-based menu system should be omitted from use is adaptive and responsive to whether the user is left-handed or right-handed, and the wrist angle defined by the user's posture.

In the patent filing, Apple says that when people meet to collaborate on a project, it is possible to become distracted and unfocused. Accordingly, various business tools have been developed to help lead business meetings to help participants stay focused on the intended topic. Examples of business tools of this nature include whiteboards and flip charts. 

Apple says that, these business tools, when properly used, can help focus a group of people on a small set of topics by providing a way for the moderator of the meeting to keep returning the participants' attention to the main theme of the meeting. However, when everyone isn’t in the same room, it’s possible for the remote participants to look at an electronic whiteboards that may be run as an application on a personal computer, according to Apple. The electronic whiteboard may be used in a manner similar to conventional physical whiteboards, except that the participants are not required to be in the same room. 

As such systems become more prevalent, Apple says it would be advantageous to provide a manner for remote participants to collaborate with people geographically located with the large digital surface. Similarly, it would be advantageous to provide a more optimal way for users to access functions associated with programs running on the large digital surface. Apple’s patent is designed to address these issues.