In computing, a stylus (or stylus pen) is a small pen-shaped instrument that is used to input commands to a computer screen, mobile device or graphics tablet. With touchscreen devices, a user places a stylus on the surface of the screen to draw or make selections by tapping the stylus on the screen. In this manner, the stylus can be used instead of a mouse or trackpad as a pointing device, a technique commonly called pen computing.
The stylus is the primary input device for personal digital assistants. It is used on the Nintendo DS and 3DS handheld game consoles, and the Wii U's Wii U GamePad. Some smartphones, such as Windows Mobile phones, require a stylus for accurate input. However, devices featuring multi-touch finger-input are becoming more popular than stylus-driven devices in the smartphone market; capacitive stylus, different from standard stylus, can be used for these finger-touch devices (iPhone, etc.). The stylus (S-Pen) is also used in the famous Galaxy Note series manufactured by Samsung Electronics.
Graphics tablets use a stylus containing circuitry (powered by battery or operating passively by inductance), to allow multi-function buttons on the barrel of the pen or stylus to transmit user actions to the tablet. Most tablets detect varying degrees of pressure sensitivity, e.g., for use in a drawing program to vary line thickness or color density.
Beyond the side of the input mechanism, there has been a need for the physical output of the stylus. Recently, new pen-based interfaces have been proposed to simulate the realistic physical sensations on digital surfaces (e.g., tablet computer, smartphone etc.) to allow users to feel as if they feel like analog-pen writing, for instance, RealPen Project.
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