Photo Credit: USPTO
Smartphone makers are experimenting with ideas like pop-up cameras and hole-punch displays to get rid of the notch, but Samsung has a very unique idea to accomplish the feat. As per a patent granted to Samsung, the company is looking to integrate a camera into the stylus that might eventually debut on a future version of the S Pen. Even more impressive is the fact that the camera fitted inside the stylus will have optical zoom hardware for a more superior magnification compared to digital zoom.
Spotted by the folks over at Patently Mobile, the patent granted to Samsung by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is titled “Electronic pen device having optical zoom” and talks about a stylus that comes equipped with an optical system that comprises of a lens and an image sensor. As per the patent document, the camera-toting S Pen would come with a control board designed to work in tandem with an electronic device that might well be a smartphone and also features a communication module.
The stylus would be capable of sending the imaging signals or data to the connected device via a wire as well as wirelessly, possibly through Bluetooth. The S Pen that comes with Samsung's latest Note flagship - the Galaxy Note 9 – already has Bluetooth support. So, the camera-equipped stylus described in the patent might just be an evolutionary form that builds on the wireless connectivity support of its predecessor and utilizes it to send imaging data captured by the onboard camera. The stylus would also feature a control key inside the housing or the cover that could be used to control the magnitude of optical magnification.
What is truly impressive is that Samsung's camera-laden S Pen will have support for optical zoom whose mechanism will be controlled by an external electronic device that may be a smartphone, notebook or a monitor. Samsung explains in the patent that smartphones typically employ digital zoom, but in the process of enlarging an image via a program or algorithm, the overall quality of the images takes a hit. Optical zoom employs an array of lenses, and since a stylus would provide more space to fit such a module, it is better suited for an external device rather than a smartphone that does not provide enough space and will have to increase its thickness for accommodating the optical zoom hardware.
As per the patent, Samsung's advanced stylus will also include a battery and a prism in the optical path for conversion of signals. The technology of equipping the stylus with a camera is still in the patent phase, so it might still be a few years away before we see an S Pen with optical zoom-enabled camera arrive with a Galaxy Note flagship. As with most patents, it is uncertain whether the technology will make its way to commercial products. Nonetheless, it would still be a major breakthrough and will introduce another way of avoiding the notch or a hole-punch and help create a truly seamless display.