Apple was granted 43 patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Wednesday—including one that stated, simply: “Fabric.”
The patent, D836,922, was approved along with a batch of other submissions that suggest a variety of new plans, including a platform for multiplayer gaming on mobile and the addition of popular ride-hailing services in its map applications. But, like all patents, there’s no guarantee they will ever be put to use.
However, this time around, Apple included a concept drawing of a new kind of textile designed to be incorporated into future products, including wearables. The image shows a square of fabric with a specific alternating style that the patent says denotes a “contrasting appearance.” The spots of white, black and dark grey represent contrasting areas and not necessarily the final design of whatever product it ends up on, according to the patent.
Alone, this would not appear to say much, however, throughout December, Apple was granted a string of similar smart fabric-related patents that could hint at its plans with the technology in the future. And, considering Apple stock tumbled on Thursday after a quarter of badly missed sales and growth estimates—tied in part to trade woes with China—a new type of tech could be what the organization needs.
Patently Apple, a publication dedicated to covering Apple’s prolific patent-producing ways, first reported last month that Apple had won a patent for a fabric-based smart TV remote control that could respond to touch. The patent also dealt with smart surfaces, covered in fabric infused with conductive strands, that could be installed on a large variety of devices.
The following week, Apple was granted a patent for a glove that integrates smart textiles and force sensors to work with Apple products, including the ability for the glove to control other Apple products, wirelessly. The patent claims that the glove could also provide information to Apple products directly from the user—information like blood pressure levels, respiratory rate and heart rate data, according to Patently Apple.
Then, on Dec. 27, the USPTO approved an Apple patent for smart fabrics integrated with features like embedded cameras, sensors and even flashing lights that could inform its users of alerts and notifications. The patent included images of those features integrated into a typical Apple smartwatch, but the claim made clear that the technology could be applied to anything, including clothing.
Patently Apple also pointed out that Daniel Podhajny, an Apple designer, was included in many of the new patents that cover smart fabric. Podhajny had previously worked with Nike on its Flyknit technology and has a track record of working with innovative and successful textile technology, suggesting that Apple has already put a significant amount of resources and personnel into this project.