Apple has been granted a new patent by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider), which describes a mouse with an embedded scanner. The scanner can be used to actually scan images, and display them on an embedded screen, but it also would help the mouse deal with varying surface types and track better in general, thanks to the addition of the kinds of chromatic sensor found in scanners.
The Apple patent describes how use of the scanner’s sensors would allow it to detect different kinds of surfaces and adjust its behaviour accordingly. The tech is sort of similar to the approach taken with its current Magic Mouse, which uses high-accuracy laser tracking to identify surface irregularity and work on materials other than mouse pads. It can already handle basically anything except for glass, so this is just an alternative tech that likely won’t lead to any big changes in how Apple produces its mice.
As a scanner, it would also likely be quite fiddly to use, and other similar products on the market haven’t done very well, so I’d be hesitant to suggest a next-gen Magic Mouse would contain something similar. But the fact that Apple is even working on tech that could incorporate a multi-touch display into peripheral devices, useful for performing direct, small manipulations to content before sending it off to the connected gadgets is interesting.
Peripherals need some kind of change to bring them into the multitouch era more fully, and embedded displays would likely help with those efforts. Plus, if the scanner is thought of not as a traditional scanner, but as an additional input method, then it potentially becomes more interesting as an actual additive experience.