We now know that the Apple Vision Pro is going to be available to buy from February 2, with preorders opening on January 19, but a newly discovered patent suggests that Apple engineers are busy looking to the future of the mixed reality headset.

The patent, spotted by Patently Apple, shows what looks like a giant Apple Pencil. The idea is that the implement could be used to write or draw in virtual space, or to select and manipulate items that exist in virtual or augmented reality.

“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,” reads part of the patent application.

And while a “head-mounted device” like the Vision Pro is extensively referenced in the documentation, this peripheral could also be used with phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, and other devices, according to the patent.

Apple Vision Pro Pencil patent diagram

Like the Apple Pencil… but bigger (Image credit: USPTO/Apple)

Virtual paint brushes

One of the cool little tricks that this implement might offer, as per the patent, is being able to display a range of “brush heads” that are only visible in AR – so it could change from looking like a paintbrush to a spray can inside the Vision Pro headset, for instance.

We've got minions of swipes and waves and shakes, as well as writing and drawing, so there's clearly lots of potential for whatever this device is. All these movements would be measured via sensors built into the pencil itself.

Apple has made a point of saying that you only need your fingers and hands to manipulate the software environment inside the Vision Pro headset, but we've also seen other patents that suggest other input methods are currently being worked on.

The usual patent disclaimers apply here: these filings give us some ideas about the tech that companies are developing and thinking about, but at the same time there's no guarantee that an actual product will result from them.

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