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Patents reveal Apple is looking into “smart fabric”

Patents reveal Apple is looking into “smart fabric”
[Photo: Alexander Andrews/Unsplash]

Fabric seems to be on Apple’s mind. At least that’s what the company’s new patents are telling us.

This past week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a slew of newly approved patents for Apple, and one design filing had to do with fabric, according to Patently Apple. This latest one–which was first filed in September 2016–shows just one image, with the title “Fabric,” of what appears to be ridged material; the patent describes the ridges as “contrasting appearance.” This may seem like a one-off diversion for the company, but over the last few years Apple has had a number of fabric-adjacent patents approved.

For instance, a few weeks ago the company had multiple patents approved related to smart fabrics that could be used in both clothing and devices. One of the designs related to a glove that had circuitry woven into it, making it possible to have sensors like blood pressure monitors embedded. Another patent from this past summer involves garments having sensors integrated as a way to aid visually impaired people.

[Image: courtesy of United States Patent and Trademark Office]
Of course, these are all just patents–it’s quite possible the actual devices will never see the light of day. But these new filings, coupled with the other past similar ones, show that Apple is thinking seriously about ways to intermingle technology with fabric. I reached out to the company for comment and will update this post if I hear back.

That’s not the only thing on Apple’s design mind either–the company had 43 patents approved this time around, including one that focuses on multiplayer gaming and another that involves ride hailing implementation in Apple Maps.

We’ll see if in the coming months and years, these nascent ideas become full-fledged products.

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