Patently Apple has covered a series of patents regarding smart bands for future Apple Watches designed to self-adjust for a snug fit so as to allow for better health readings from the sensors beneath Apple Watch. The main three previous patents could be reviewed here: (01, 02 & 03). Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Apple a granted patent for a watch band that could self-adjust using "adjustable fabric" that's different from previous methodologies. A second fabric patent granted to Apple today covers fabric buttons and keyboard keys.
Adjustable Fabric for Apple Watch
Apple's patent continues their common theme of future Apple Watch bands being able to adjust tightly for health testing. Overall, Apple's patent covers strands of material that may be intertwined to form fabric for a strap or other structure in an electronic device.
Conductive strands in the fabric may have middle-of-strand knots. When current is applied to a conductive strand, the knot in that strand may produce magnetic fields that cause the knot to adjust tension in the fabric.
Adjustable fabric #12 found in patent FIG. 1 below may be used to provide a user with haptic output (e.g., by buckling a selected portion of fabric to press against a user's skin), may be used to tighten and/or loosen a strap, may be used to change the shape of a portion of Apple Watch.
Apple notes that the fabric may be adjusted by supply electrical signals to conductive strands of the material in the fabric. The conductive strands may include knots such as mid-strand knots (sometimes referred to as middle-of-strand knots, middle-of-strand loops, etc.). When a current is applied to the knots, magnetic fields are created that give rise to torque and associated movement and change in shape of portions of the knots and associated fabric. For example, portions of fabric 12 may experience changes in tension and may tighten or loosen and/or may buckle or otherwise change shape. That's covered in our second graphic set.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 above is a perspective view of an illustrative wristwatch device of the type that may include an adjustable strap. Wristwatch device #10 may have a strap such as strap #62 that is formed from adjustable fabric #12.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 above is a side view of Apple Watch in a configuration in which device #10 is a strap configured to be worn on a user's wrist or other body part. The strap may be formed from adjustable fabric #12.
Control circuitry #24 may be incorporated into device 10 (e.g., in fabric 12) to control the shape of adjustable fabric 12 during operation.
For example, the control circuitry can apply current to conductive strands of material in fabric #12 to cause the fabric to contract inwardly (e.g., to radially contract) in directions 70 (e.g., to grasp onto a user's body so that a blood pressure sensor in sensors 26 can make an accurate measurement).
Apple's patent FIG. 7 below is a perspective view of an illustrative mid-strand knot; FIG. 9 is a schematic diagram of an illustrative knot for use in adjustable fabric; FIG. 16 is a diagram of an illustrative adjustable magnetic element that is interacting with a magnetic field from a magnet.
While the main aspect of the patent relates to a possible future Apple Watch band, Apple never limits their inventions to a single idea should they decide to use the invention differently in the future. On that basis, Apple states that the invention could apply to other projects related to a device accessory case, a headband, a bag strap, clothing items like sleeves, pockets, hat glove, pants and more It may also be used in sofa and more.
While others reporting and promoting this patent today as one related to gloves as the main aspect of the patent is incorrect and misleading. Apple's patent claims guide an invention/patent and there Apple notes: "wherein the fabric is configured to form a strap." There is no mention of gloves in their patent claims.
Apple's granted patent 10,561,367 was originally filed in Q2 2018 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Fabric Button Domes
Apple was granted a second patent relating to use of fabrics in future Apple devices and in this patent the focus is on button domes placed on future devices including those relating to keyboards.
Apple's patent FIG. 9b below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative fabric dome; FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device case having buttons formed from fabric domes; FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a portion of a keyboard with fabric-based input devices such as keys formed from fabric overlapping fabric dome switches
Apple's patent FIG. 12 above is a top view of an illustrative fabric structure such as an Apple Watch band or strap that has been provided with input devices such as switches or buttons based on fabric domes.
Apple's granted patent 10,566,151 was originally filed in Q1 2017 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.