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Universal Stylus Initiative aims to promote industry standard

by Mark Tyson on 24 April 2015, 15:35

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Wacom

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A number of prominent device and electronics makers have banded together to launch the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI). This new organisation will start by developing a standard specification for an active stylus and then seek to promote it industry-wide. Big technology players including Intel, Lenovo and Wacom are already backing the initiative.

Over the years if you have owned a more than a single stylus packing device/gadget, especially from different vendors, you might have been disappointed that you couldn't just use your favourite styli across devices. My daughter lost her HP convertible's Wacom designed stylus in the first week of ownership. We were disappointed that it wouldn't work with either of the two spare Wacom styli I had in my drawer, and we had to mail order a replacement from HP in the USA.

It would be great if you could use any active stylus with a wide range of supported hardware but there are so many competing standards and technologies around now. This is where the USI 1.0 specification hopes to help, going forward. "The USI 1.0 specification provides for a stylus capable of communicating with different touch sensors and touch controller integrated circuits". With the new standard in place users should gain a consistent experience across devices, with up to 2048 different levels of pressure available from screen to screen. Just think if your smartphone, tablet, computer and graphics tablet used the same stylus tech… Then you'd only have to worry about the stylus silo size.

Founding members of the USI include plenty of industry heavyweights; Atmel Corporation; Hanvon Pentech Co., Ltd.; Intel Corporation; Lenovo Inc.; Sharp Corporation; Synaptics Inc.; Wacom Co., Ltd.; and Waltop International Corp. at the Promoter level; and eGalax_eMPIA Technology Inc. (EETI); Elan Microelectronics Corporation; Focal Tech Electronics, Ltd.; and Dell Global B.V. at the Contributor level. Conspicuous by their absence are the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Apple. I note that the USI web page graphics appear to show a Samsung S Pen in action.

Pondering the USI initiative Jon Peddie Research said that such a standard is "sorely" needed and that the standard could bring cost reductions in deploying styli resulting in more OEMs choosing to equip one with their devices. JPR went on to estimate that active stylus adoption would grow from 100 million units in 2015 to 300 million units in 2018 thanks to the USI.

HEXUS Forums :: 7 Comments

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Would love active stylus to become a standard in the mobile market, can never justify buying one just for the desktop but if I could have one that I could use on my android tablet and phone that would improve its value immensely and I could finally draw happily on my touchscreen devices!
Surprised about Samsung not being involved due to them owning 10% iirc of wacom although if anything I'm more surprised by wacom being involved, they're the ‘defacto’ graphics tablet manufacturer so this would clearly hurt them more than the less known brands.

Microsoft doesn't really need to be involved because at the end of the day this is more of a hardware thing with just a driver needed for windows.

Apple will just do what it usually does and make some proprietary apple only magical stylus which isn't any better than a wacom.
It's about time.

No doubt that the current defacto ‘industry standard’ Wacom system will be the industry standard.
Surprised about Samsung not being involved due to them owning 10% iirc of wacom although if anything I'm more surprised by wacom being involved, they're the ‘defacto’ graphics tablet manufacturer so this would clearly hurt them more than the less known brands.
I'm not surprised by either. Samsung seems to want to ape Apple by “doing it's own thing” even if that “own thing” is worse. And it maybe figures that S-Pen gives it a unique advantage. I've got a Note tablet and to be honest I don't S-Pen much, but if you're a “creative” then I can easily see where it'd be a huge advantage.

Wacom, I would have thought would definitely want to be in on this. The last thing they'd want (surely) is USI setting themselves up as the “competition”. On the other hand if they're (Wacom) are in USI then it's pretty darned likely that they'll be the major player in whatever specs etc are issued. And that's a pretty nice commercial advantage.

Where I'd like to see USI come in hard is for these dual-purpose netbooks/laptops that can also function as tablets. Being able to use a proper stylus (i.e. like the Note, not just a finger substitute) will open up a good few usage cases.
Touch is just a perma fad that is in my view a regression from stylus interactions of earlier devices. This initiative is a promising start to a much needed stylus renaissance. It gives hope to those who think the pen is mightier than the finger and cutlery should never be uninvented.