Forget the Surface Dial, how about a Surface Inkwell? (patent)


Arguably the  pièce de résistance of Microsoft’s Surface Studio announcement was the Surface Dial, an accessory which offered a natural user interface to on-screen digital elements and allowed us to imagine that we too could be artists, if we only purchased $3000 worth of hardware.

It seems Microsoft’s own creativity did not end there however, as a recent patent application suggests they have been working on an elaboration for the idea also.

Their patent for a “BASE STATION FOR USE WITH DIGITAL PENS” would allow users to easily store, share and even charge multiple digital pens.

Microsoft writes:

Examples of the disclosure enable a docking station to provide various capabilities including, without limitation, storing a digital pen, charging a digital pen, associating a digital pen with one or more user settings, authenticating a user of a digital pen, syncing data between a digital pen and a computing device, creating/updating a user account associated with a user of a digital pen, adjusting an operating parameter associated with a digital pen, and providing teleconferencing functionalities. Some examples include a base station (e.g., a docking station) including a sidewall at least partially defining a cavity, a charge module configured to charge a digital pen positioned within the cavity, and an authentication module configured to associate a digital pen with one or more user settings such that the digital pen is configured to operate in accordance with the user settings.

Microsoft notes the pen holder can also include a pallet element and that while in some instances the palette may be on the holder itself, projected on the table from the sides of the holder, or  in others it may appear digitally on the screen below the holder, as should now be familiar from the Surface Dial on the Pixelsense screen on the Surface Studio.


 In some examples, the display screen is a capacitive touch screen configured to detect pressure applied to the display screen . The sensors may be touch sensitive (e.g., sensitive to a finger of the user ) or pen sensitive (e.g., sensitive to the digital pen 160). The palette module may include one or more sensors spaced or positioned about the display screen , such that the palette module is configured to identify a location of the display screen on which the pressure is applied.

The palette module serves as a digital palette and presents one or more options on the display screen , detects a pressure applied to the display screen 620 using the sensors, identifies a location of the applied pressure on the display screen , identifies one or more operations associated with the location of the applied pressure, and performs the operations. A user may select a color from a color wheel presented on the display screen and, based on the selection, an ink color (e.g., an operating parameter) may be adjusted or changed to the selected color. Alternatively, the base station may present or receive any option that enables the base station to function as described herein.

One can imagine in Microsoft’s efforts to woo the creative types and up their cool factor they may produce a number of interesting peripherals, and it would give artists a better place than a pen loop to keep their styli.

It seems unlikely that this accessory will ever come to market, but of course we never expected the Surface Dial.

The patent application, which was filed only in April this year, can be seen here.

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