This patent could have Vision Pro owners writing and drawing in thin air with a futuristic Apple Pencil

Apple Vision Pro first impressions
(Image credit: Future / Britta O'Boyle)

After months of waiting, eager Apple Vision Pro buyers will finally get their hands on Apple's first entry into the spatial computing space on February 2 and it's set to be a big day for the company. 

But its bet on AR/VR and that technology possibly turning into the future of computing is far from complete and, alongside a cheaper Vision Pro, we can surely expect Apple to announce more products and accessories in the future. And a new patent might have outed one of those ahead of time.

That patent appears to suggest that Apple is already starting to turn its attention to how people could use the Vision Pro as a means of creation, not just playing games or working with the usual Mac apps but in a buzzy new 3D space. It hints that Apple is keen to find a way for artists to paint and draw in new ways, all using what looks like an upgraded Apple Pencil. And you can bet that it would be useful for taking notes on the fly, too.

Apple's iPad lineup has, almost accidentally, become the go-to tablet for artists around the world. Could the Vision Pro become the go-to spatial computing device as well? Apple will of course hope so, and if that's to happen this patent could play a huge part in it.

'Held like a pen, pencil, marker, wand, or tool'

The patent, first spotted by Patently Apple, is sufficiently vague as to not give the game away completely while still giving us a good idea of what Apple might have in mind. The drawings clearly show an Apple Pencil-like accessory, albeit enlarged, but the text suggests that the implement could be almost anything so long as it as a point at the end.

"A handheld controller with a marker-shaped housing may have an elongated housing that spans across the width of a user's hand and that can be held like a pen, pencil, marker, wand, or tool," the patent application reads.

Carried under patent application 20240012496, the text also makes mention of a nondescript "head-mounted device" but you don't have to have too great of an imagination to make the leap to the Vision Pro here.

There are plenty of reasons why being able to create artwork or take notes in a 3D space could be useful, not least the lack of any physical constraints. The iPad models can scroll and zoom through bigger working areas of course, but the display is only so big even on the behemoth that is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple says that movie-watchers can expect a 100ft screen — imagine being able to paint on something that size without ever leaving the comfort of your own sofa.

Drawn Apple Pencil patent image

(Image credit: Apple/USPTO)

It is of course important to remember that not every patent that Apple puts through the US patent office is something that ultimately turns into a product that you can buy at the Apple Store. But it's also important to remember that many do, and there is little reason why this wouldn't be one of those that pass muster and become a real shipping product.

As for the Vision Pro itself, that'll go on sale on February 2 after preorders begin on January 19. The starting price of $3,499 will get buyers 256GB of storage, with more capacious models expected to also be available.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.