By Stephen Schenck | February 29, 2012 11:41 PM
When Samsung released its Galaxy Note, it helped show us how introducing some technology to a plain, old stylus can really make it that much more interesting; adding a side button input to the S Pen opens up a new world of gesture commands. Samsung liked how well that worked so much that it’s continuing to offer the S Pen with newer devices. The company’s not alone, though, when it comes to finding ways to spruce-up old stylus designs for use with today’s smartphones and tablets; Texas Instruments has a technology it’s been demoing at the Mobile World Congress that adds a whole new dimension to stylus tracking.
Rather than tracking the stylus with a resonance-based digitizer panel, like Samsung and the S Pen, TI has come up with an ultrasonic tracker. During operation, the pen emits a high frequency sound that is tracked by microphones at the corners of the tablet’s display. By calculating the timing differences between the signals received by multiple microphones, the system can track the stylus in 3D space; though the technology’s come a long way since then, this is basically the same tracking system Mattel used on its Power Glove for the NES in the late ’80s.
This novel tracking solution offers a couple benefits you wouldn’t get with other methods. For instance, you don’t have to physically touch the stylus to the screen, opening up the door for new controls using the Z axis. On the other hand, it introduces new problems, like keeping the ultrasonic stylus powered.
For now, TI doesn’t have any manufacturers signed-up to use this tech in one of their products, but if one eventually bites, we just might see a 3D stylus like this show up on a tablet sometime in future.
Source: Android Central