The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has today published an Apple patent application for incorporating displays into woven fabric. While the patent describes a variety of possible uses, some of the language effectively describes use in Apple Watch bands, with several of the drawings also pointing to this.
A woven fabric includes light transmissive fibers woven into the fabric to provide a visual display. The fabric may be used as a tether to releasably connect a portable electronic device to a user. The light transmissive fibers may transmit light to convey information to the user.
One specific part of the application describes a case where “portable electronic device includes a timekeeping device,” and a list of potential devices includes “electronic wrist watches” …
The patent describes weaving together conventional fabrics with a particular type of fiber optic cable designed to light up the cable rather than keep the light contained within it.
Some optical fibers transport as much light as possible within the core while optical fibers intended for light distribution are designed to let part of the light leak out through the walls of the fibers.
It describes three ways of using the fibers to display information: lighting up an entire length of optical fiber, lighting only part of its length and lighting all of it but using fabric to cover up some of the lit area.
As well as time displays and message indicators, Apple also describes using colored light to confirm that a band is properly secured.
The band could indicate by a change in color whether the clasp or other implement attaching the band to the person of the user is closed or otherwise secured
The patent references other devices also, including both smartphones and laptops, with one drawing (below) suggesting that a woven display could perhaps serve for things like message alerts when a MacBook is sleeping. Another example given is in a band tethering a product to a user’s wrist.
We of course include our usual disclaimer that Apple patents all kinds of things that never make it into products. This is particularly relevant today, given that Patently Apple notes 384 other Apple patent applications were published today alone.