The new USI 2.0 standard for styluses isn’t so universal after all

    A new report has revealed compatibility issues with version 2.0 of the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) standard, meaning older USI 1.0 styluses will not work with some newer USI 2.0 devices. Chrome Unboxed Stumbled upon the issue while using Lenovo’s new Chromebook Duet 3, when it noticed that existing styluses were not working with the device.

    It seems the problem with the Chromebook Duet 3 is that the screen uses an in-cell design that combines elements of the screen with a digitizer that handles stylus input. Chrome Unboxed reports that this is a more compact and cost-effective way to offer stylus input. But because support for the technology wasn’t introduced until USI version 2.0, the Duet 3 won’t work with styluses made to work with USI 1.0 displays.

    USI chairman Peter Mueller confirmed the restriction in a statement to: Chrome Unboxed† “Because the touch and display drivers are more closely integrated for in-cell, the touch sensing has to take place within certain time windows between driving the display. It’s this timing limitation that caused us to adjust our USI specification for some in-cell panels,” he said. “We spent many months looking for alternatives to ensure backward compatibility, but it wasn’t feasible. “

    It’s unclear if the issue affects all USI 2.0-compatible displays, but it’s an unfortunate limitation that severely limits the number of styluses that can be used with devices that use in-cell technology, such as the Chromebook Duet 3. There are not that many compatible styluses on the market, and even Lenovo’s own USI Pen 2 doesn’t seem to be available yet.

    The situation threatens to be confusing for consumers. Mueller says the USI is recommending suppliers take several steps to reduce this, but it’s unclear how many will follow suit. “We asked for clear documentation and marking, as well as shipping with a 2.0 stylus (ideally) to minimize confusion and user frustration,” Mueller said. Chrome Unboxed

    Other features of USI 2.0 include support for wireless charging styluses, an expanded color palette, and a wider range of tilt and shade functions.

    The Universal Stylus Initiative is far from the only organization to have seen its theoretically simple, universal standard hit with compatibility issues. Just look at the confusing mess of standards that the USB Implementers Forum currently offers or the problems surrounding HDMI 2.1. Groups like these have to strike a difficult balance between controlling how their technologies can be used to avoid confusion, and leaving them open enough to encourage widespread adoption.

    Regardless of the reasons, unfortunately it all means paying close attention to the fine print, even if a device supposedly supports a universal standard.

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