New patents suggest Apple Pencil 3 could have an unusual VR use

The original Apple Pencil wasn't the first pen stylus, but it did bring in a number of new ideas that reshaped how we use and think about this kind of device, particularly for digital art on a tablet. Now two new patents suggest that the next Apple Pencil, let's call it the Apple Pencil 3, will push things further and even suggest a VR use.

Looking at the new patents for the rumoured Apple Pencil 3, I'm particularly excited to see that, from the looks of the first patent, the next-generation stylus may get haptic feedback – a first for the Apple Pencil, though Surface Pro 8's Slim Pen 2 features the tech already. 

Adding haptic feedback into Apple Pencil has been rumoured since 2020, but this new update to the patents, in a section titled 'Touch-based input device with haptic feedback', appears more concrete. 

A patent illustration showing how a new Apple Pencil could work.

This patent illustration shows how the new Apple Pencil could look, and teases a new finger sensor (Image credit: Apple)

The new patent details were unearthed by Patently Apple (opens in new tab). If they come to fruition, it could lead to new ways of using the new Apple Pencil. They came with updates to Apple's VR/AR patents, and it's incredibly exciting to connect the dots and imagine how haptic feedback in the new Apple Pencil could even lead to it being used as a virtual reality stylus – you'll be able to write notes and paint digital art in VR and feel the response as you technically waft the Pencil around in thin air.

If this works like other haptic-enabled devices, such as PlayStation 5's DualSense controller, then we'll be able to feel when the new Apple Pencil crosses a line in a piece of artwork. I can imagine that different paints and thicknesses of paints, as well as brush paint volume and 'load', could all be 'felt' as the Pencil is swiped across the screen. 

Apple Pencil 3: new touch features

The second patent is just as exciting, as it could extend gesture and touch control even further. Titled 'Stylus with touch input and compressive force sensors', this patent suggests a new Apple Pencil will sense swipes and squeezes, adding to the current double-tap sensitivity used to swap tools on the Apple Pencil 2.

The idea that we could swipe a finger up or down the stylus to alter its function is interesting, perhaps to zoom in and out of an artwork, but being able to squeeze the stem of the stylus gently will be a great way to quickly change modes – perhaps the thickness of digital inks, paints and line widths. Apple is used to using this tech already, as the AirPod Pro enables us to squeeze the earbud's stem to change songs or pause music.

An illustration of the Apple Pencil 3 patents

The new Apple Pencil patent shows a potential new use of swipe and squeeze gestures (Image credit: Apple)

If you're unfamiliar with Apple's stylus, then take a look at our Apple Pencil 2 review and our comparison of Apple Pencil versus Apple Pencil 2 to reveal how this digital pen has changed with each generation. Both can be used with Apple's iPads, and you can find the best iPad for drawing in our buyer's guide.

This Apple Pencil patent news comes hot on the heels of the announcements from Apple's WWDC 2022 event, which featured news of a new MacBook Air 2022 and details of iOS16 and why new Apple devices will drop the Lightning charger.

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Ian Dean is Digital Arts & Design Editor at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his love to bring the latest news on NFTs, video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Corel Painter, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5.