The recent HP announcement of the debut of its HP Pro Slate Android tablets included the detail that they would come bundled with the HP Duet Pen, “the first to use Qualcomm Snapdragon digital pen technology on both a tablet and regular paper.” For a stylus buff like me, any news about new digital pen technologies is interesting, and this Qualcomm innovation looks to be one of the more striking wheezes to break cover lately.

According to Qualcomm’s technology partner on the new device, GlobalLogici, the Qualcomm Snapdragon Digital Pen “represents the next generation of the stylus popular with tablet devices. With the size and feel of a regular pen, the Qualcomm Snapdragon Digital Pen gives users control in three dimensions … The tablet device uses ultrasound technology, to communicate with the digital pen. Two ultrasonic transmitters relay the pen’s position and axis of rotation, which is picked-up by the integrated microphones in the tablet to triangulate the pen. These capabilities were introduced as part of the Snapdragon 805 chipset.”

Yes, a manufacturer is now taking stylus input seriously enough to implement it at the chipset level. For touchscreen devices which in principle have a perfectly good screen to draw on and shouldn’t need stylus input from external surfaces. But with this stylus technology, “the tracking orientation of the pen’s position extends approximately 40 centimeters, or 1.5 feet from a screen or tablet. This distance-based tracking is designed to accurately measure the coordinates of a nearby object.”

You couldn’t wish for a more damning refutation of Steve Jobs’s notorious anti-stylus rant. (Except for Apple introducing a stylus of their own, perhaps.) Or for a sexier and more out-there next-generation stylus technology. Way to go, Qualcomm: Let me write you a thank you note. In longhand.


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