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Apple's Hiding Some Brilliant New Tech. Here's A Sneak-Peek!

18 Apr, 2017
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Apple never fails to amaze us. But I think it also takes equal pleasure in confusing us!

Famous for its innovative tech, Apple also continues to earn patents for next-gen tech that industry watchers like us keep reading about, and salivating over- hoping that the next device from Apple carries the latest tidbit we happen to spot.

Keeping that mischievous tradition alive, the next up in the list of “we want” tech is for a recently-granted patent of a woven display!

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has recently awarded Apple with that patent (filed back in May 2014) which is the result of efforts made by inventors Douglas J. Weber and Teodor Dabov.

So, what is a woven display?

Apple’s patent describes the use of a proprietary method of weaving light transmissive fibres into conventional textiles to get a visual display.

The interesting part is that these fibers would not conduct electricity and thus will not have light of their own, however they’ll be used to carry the luminance being transferred from the source (external LEDs or an external electric base), which will allow them to have varying optical properties.

These light tubes or light pipes as they are currently referred to, are optical waveguides used for transporting or distributing light for the purpose of illumination. Imagine them to be like threads running from one point to another carrying (not creating) signals.

Modern weaving, braiding, and knitting technology will be used along with three-dimensional knitting tools capable of producing flexible fiber band materials, to create fabric materials that would be difficult or impossible to implement using other fabrication technologies.

A schematic diagram of a weaving system that may be used to weave fibers is shown below:

Weaved Fibre

The idea of a woven display leads to a flexible display.

While plenty of other tech firms are working on bendable, flexible and foldable screens, Apple’s approach is novel and it has immense advantages over other innovators’ approaches.

Images made possible through the fibers could prove to be a boon in the sphere of Wearable devices, where the currently-unused surfaces on clothes (like sleeves or cuffs) could be converted to visually capable real-estate! Or it could convert your every-day sports accessories like a wrist band, for example, to act as extended add-ons to your devices.

Wearable flexible display

Isn’t that an amazing prospect!

Apple could perhaps want to kick-start the use of this proprietary technology on their Apple Watch’s bands – allowing them to have capability to display notifications or to show you your heart rate etc.

We grab this hint from the company’s own belief that the strap has so far, not been used to its fullest potential: ”While useful for such purposes, these tethers are generally decorative and serve no useful information providing, or other utilitarian, function other than for aesthetic purposes”.

The woven display for now seems more along the line of basic display of notifications. The notifications could be basic and mimic a digital watch like display, allowing for a passive display of missed calls or messages, exercise data like steps, calories burnt, steps climbed, etc.
This could help save the precious battery power while allowing the wearer access simple data.

This is not new, Alcatel Hero 2 had a snap on front cover which allowed for basic notifications like time, sms and email, just that it was not flexible.

HERO-MagicFlip

Now, with this technology, if this capability can be woven into a flexible cloth like material, the adaptations can be numerous, allowing the wearables to become truly communicative.

Google actually has Project Jacquard, a division within the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects that makes it possible to weave touch- and gesture-interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms.

Jacquard yarn structures combine thin, metallic alloys instead of light transmissive fibers with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk, making the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom. Their conductive yarns with touch and gesture capability can be woven anywhere. This March, they did showcase their collaboration with Levi’s in the form of a jacket, which could be washed.

This has the potential to allows us to transform everyday objects such as clothes and furniture into interactive surfaces. Similar to the tech patented by Apple, Google’s conductive yarn needs to be connected to a base which is the brains, while the conductive patch is an extension allowing the user ease in accessing and interacting with the interface.

Such progressive research that will create flexible screens and adventurous new surfaces will allow us to ingrain technology into our daily lives, making our interaction with technology more tactile and will allow us to consume it seamlessly.

Do read our Radar and Tech ShowCase sections for technology that is going to creep into your lives in the near future!