USI stylus will work across multiple devices, platforms

April 24, 2015

Wakefield, MA. Prominent OEMs as well as stylus and touch controller manufacturers today announced the launch of Universal Stylus Initiative (USI), a new organization formed to develop and promote an industry specification for an active stylus.

The USI specification will make it possible for manufacturers to design products to a single standard, rather than the variety of proprietary approaches now in use, and it will be compatible with current notebook computer operating-system requirements. USI seeks to provide a consistent user experience while increasing the availability and consumer appeal of the active stylus, through providing industry-wide interoperability and adding functions and features not supported by current styluses.

USI technology will enable interoperable communication between an active stylus and touch-enabled devices such as phones, tablets, and computing and entertainment platforms from numerous manufacturers, allowing consumers to seamlessly write or draw on different devices with one high-quality stylus that delivers a realistic pen-on-paper experience. The group expects to publish the initial version of the USI specification in the third quarter of 2015.

“USI’s founding members have come together to enable interoperable active styluses that function across many content creation devices,” said Ajay Bhatt, Intel Fellow. “Our goal is to make the active stylus more affordable and widely available in the market. Consumers who buy USI-compatible devices will know that they work seamlessly with each other while providing a high-quality writing or drawing experience.”

“The market has sorely been needing a universal communication standard for active stylus,” said Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research. “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.”

Features of the USI specification include the method by which the stylus communicates with content-creation devices and provides additional information such as stylus pressure levels, button presses, erasing, and other features. 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—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.

USI is currently accepting additional member companies who are ready to be hands-on in completing and promoting a specification to achieve active stylus interoperability. USI welcomes any organization that wants to be involved in this industry initiative. Several membership levels are available.

The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) is an international not-for-profit technology trade association whose mission is to define industry-wide standards for interoperable communication between an active stylus and touch-enabled devices such as phones, tablets, and computing and entertainment platforms. The USI specification provides for a stylus capable of communicating with different touch sensors and touch controller integrated circuits, so that users can employ the same stylus across numerous touch-enabled devices, as long as each device’s touch controller is compliant with the USI specification.

USI founding members include Atmel Corp., Hanvon Pentech Co. Ltd., Intel Corp., Lenovo Inc., Sharp Corp., Synaptics Inc., Wacom Co. Ltd., and Waltop International Corp. at the Promoter level, and eGalax_eMPIA Technology Inc. (EETI), Elan Microelectronics Corp., Focal Tech Electronics Ltd., and Dell Global B.V. at the Contributor level. Membership in USI is required in order to obtain the specification and to license the IP that it contains.

“As a leading provider of touch solutions, we identified a need to develop a standardized specification for an active stylus across multiple platforms,” said Stan Swearingen, senior vice president, CTO, and GM of the Touch Business Unit, Atmel Corp. “As a founding member of Universal Stylus Initiative, we partnered with 11 other companies to define and drive a ubiquitous standard across platforms with capacitive touchscreens. We are excited to launch this new initiative and standardized specification, and believe it will drive more active styluses into the market, creating an evolution of touchscreen devices into content creation devices.”

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