Google joining the Universal Stylus Initiative raises hopes of universal stylus technology


The good old stylus isn’t dead. The Apple iPad Pro range with the Apple Pencil, the Samsung Galaxy Note devices with the S Pen and Microsoft’s Surface convertibles with the Surface Pen are just some examples of recent devices that proudly uphold the utility and the case for the stylus. While the names may be different, they still pretty much do the same set of tasks—the ability to write, scribble, jot and draw on the phone, tablet or laptop screen. However, that is where the similarities end. And that is where the Universal Stylus Initiative, launched in 2015, might become very relevant in the times that lie ahead.

The Universal Stylus Initiative already had a rather robust list of members before Google confirmed its support. Some of the 33 members include Intel, Lenovo, Dell, LG Display, Japan Display Inc. (JDI), Wacom and 3M. However, it’s important to note that major players such as Samsung, Microsoft, or Apple are yet to join in, which does mean the Initiative has its task cut out.

At present, the stylus that works with one device will not work with the other. For instance, you cannot use an Apple Pencil with a Microsoft Surface device. The Initiative’s aim is to create and draw consensus on an open and non-proprietary active stylus specification, which will allow manufacturers to make styluses that are compatible with multiple stylus supporting devices such as smartphones, tablets and convertible computing devices. What we have at the moment is a USI 1.0 standard that uses two-way communication, which means specifics such as ink colour, thickness of stroke and stroke type preferences are stored in the stylus itself. This means when you switch from one device to another, these preferences are also carried forward. The USI standard supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the Samsung’s S Pen and Microsoft’s Surface Pen support the same too) as well as 9-axis inertial measurement to be able to detect and replicate fine movements precisely.

While it really isn’t clear when we will see new devices with accompanying styluses that support the USI 1.0 specification, it might actually be a start if the companies that are already members to the Universal Stylus Initiative could start incorporating these specifications in the products they launch.livemint