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Microsoft Working on Stylus That's Used On Any Screen

MIT's Technology Review reports that Microsoft is currently considering the release of an in-house developed stylus. This gadget has thus far received good reviews internally, thus researchers are now waiting to see if the company will continue developing the product, and eventually test it as a potential product. The big deal with this stylus is that it will reportedly work on any screen, even those that aren't touch-sensitive like a standard LCD monitor.

The news arrives after Microsoft announced the street date of Windows 8 earlier this week. Although the latest edition to the Windows series is focused on finger-based input, it also supports a stylus. That said, not every consumer upgrading to Windows 8 will have a touch-based screen, relying on the typical mouse/keyboard input instead. This device would seemingly solve the stylus input problem at the very least.

Outside its use with the Nintendo DS system, stylus use saw a dramatic decline once the iPhone and other touch-based devices began to saturate the market. The tech eventually became associated with outdated devices such as the Palm Pilot, yet over the past year, new devices have appeared on the market sporting styluses again, such as the Galaxy Note. Games like Draw Something have made them highly useful on tablets, allowing users to draw more accurate pictures.

So how will this new stylus work on a non-touch-based screen? Andreas Nowatzyk and colleague Anoop Gupta came up with the idea of using the screen's grid of pixels as a navigational system. The gadget features a small camera that looks down at the display and counts off pixels as they pass by to track its actual movement. It tracks its motion similar to the way "smart pens" like the LiveScribe use a camera to track dots on special paper.

In addition to the tracking camera, another camera looks out the side of the stylus body at an angle so it views the display aslant. That lets it infer the angle it is being held at based on how different pixels are in and out of focus, the report states. The gadget also requires software that "massages" the color of blue pixels on the screen so that the stylus knows exactly where it's at on the desktop. The blue pixels were chosen because "the human eye doesn't have many blue cones in the fovea."

The report also states that the stylus needs to note the average brightness of around five groups of four pixels to learn in current position. It can constantly report that back to the computer, which can update its display and react appropriately.

For more information about Microsoft's prototype stylus, check out MIT's report here.


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