The relationship between Chromebooks and accessories has advanced exponentially over the past couple of years thank, in part, to Google’s “Works with Chromebook” initiative. The relatively new branding is a way for peripheral makers to market products such as portable storage, mice, webcams, and other accessories to Chrome OS users by giving them the peace of mind that these add-ons will simply work out of the box when used in conjunction with a Chromebook.
One such peripheral, the USI stylus, made its debut on Chromebooks last year and Google is adamant about ensuring that touch-enabled devices work with the USI protocol no matter where you decide to purchase your pen. To further the integration between Chrome OS and digital pens, Chromebooks will soon feature a battery level indicator in the stylus tool menu of compatible devices. Behind a flag in the Canary channel, the feature reports the battery level of the detected stylus as “low, medium, or high.”
While the feature is clearly still a work in progress, my Lenovo Flex 5 did detect the USI stylus I had on hand and the battery reporting changed from low to high when the pen woke up. A recent commit connected to the feature did remove the “high” and “med” labels which tell me that it will eventually be used simply to alert users that their styluses battery needs to be charged or replaced. That said, future updates could add actual battery percentages if the USI protocol reports them and Chrome OS developers deem it a worthwhile addition.
With Google requiring USI compatibility on any and all future touch-enabled Chromebooks, this will be a much-needed and quite welcome addition to the stylus tools. For educators, creators, and even the average consumer, having an easy way to see the battery level or your peripherals is a simple yet very useful feature and I think that the Chrome OS developers are spot on with this addition. At this time, it is unclear whether this feature will work with current, non-USI styli such as the Pixelbook Pen or HP’s AES stylus. Hopefully, we will see this update land in Chrome OS 89 or perhaps sooner when version 88 lands later this month but that’s just wishful thinking.
Correction: This feature was first spotted in the Chromium repository by Dinsan Francis at Chrome Store. See the full story here.