The concept of wearable smart fabric certainly isn’t anything new or strange. Just a few years back, Google unveiled a series of bold plans for the future of wearable technology which aimed to add smart features to clothing that would give users the ability to perform various tasks on their devices by simply touching the clothes they were wearing. Fast forward to today and it seems that Apple is taking the lead on smart fabric. On the first day of the new year, 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 that can be used in both clothing and devices.
Previously, the tech company filed a design patent back in 2016, but it does little to reveal any interesting details about the new material. And being a patent, the only thing we get is a drawing, which shows the potential design of such fabric that Apple may or may not use on future smart devices and accessories.
In fact, Apple has filed several other patents over the years that are related to bringing smart features to wearable fabric. Smart fabric could contain various components that you’d find in smart devices, including fiber optics, nanoelectronics, and thermochromic dyes, which would be embedded in conductive or semiconductive threads and yarns. The intelligent fabric would be able to respond to pressure and touch and detect environmental changes.
While Apple isn’t expected to start clothing lines of its own, the fabric could be used in accessories targeting its products, including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV. A different patent that Patently Apple discovered in mid-December describes such technology for a fabric-based Apple TV remote. The fabric would be able to respond to inputs from the user and transmit those controls to the equipment.
There’s no telling when Apple will launch accessories or new products made of smart fabric, or if we’ll ever see such products from the iPhone maker. But the increasing number of patents for smart fabric does indicate Apple is interested in bringing smart features to fabrics in the future.