The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) has been launched by a consortium of tech players “to develop and promote an industry specification for an active stylus.” This seeks to establish “industry-wide standards for interoperable communication between an active stylus and touch-enabled devices such as phones, tablets, computing and entertainment platforms.” Founding members include Dell, Intel, Lenovo, Sharp, Synaptics, and Wacom.

For anyone skeptical about the appeal of onscreen writing, and particularly with active digitization, the USI has put some numbers against its plan. Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research, said in the announcement: “To date the market has been limited by proprietary touch controller-stylus solutions, which limits OEM choices and cost reductions. With the USI specification released, we expect that the capacitive active stylus market will grow from 100 million units in 2015 to 300 million units in 2018, opening up new markets such as smartphones and all-in-one PCs.”

As a longtime advocate of onscreen handwriting, I don’t see the existing technology falling too far short of what’s needed. However, the USI consortium plans to offer more. “Through the same sensor that one’s finger uses to command a device, the stylus communicates via different frequencies to perform the action of writing — writing with up to 2048 different levels of pressure to give the pen-on-paper experience and render thinner or thicker lines in note-taking, painting and doodling, just like an ink pen.”

The USI consortium is still seeking for further members. “The group expects to publish the initial version of the USI specification in the third quarter of 2015.”


  1. Oh yes, let’s all go back to the days of the Newton Message Pad and do it better this time around. The Newton was surprisingly ahead of its time.
    In fact, there are Newton emulators (Einstein) for desktop and mobile computers. NewtonTalk is a very active mailing list.

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