Future Apple Watch straps might feature functional buttons, sense user touch

Future Apple Watch straps might feature functional buttons, sense user touch

Apple is actively investigating methods of embedding electronic components into woven fabric materials, technology that might be applied to Apple Watch strap designs to offload user interfaces into physical space and expand device functionality.

As noted in a trio of Apple patent applications published on Thursday, the company is continuing exploration into advanced fabric manufacturing technology. Specifically, the documents published today detail methods by which electrical components like buttons, switches and other functional equipment.

As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s patent application for “Three-Dimensional Fabric With Embedded Input-Output Devices” explores the possibility of utilizing three-dimensional braiding apparatus to create fabric structures with pockets into which electrical parts are disposed. More accurately, these components are installed into small pockets formed into the fabric material during production.

Source: USPTO

The invention supports a variety of hardware solutions, including switches, buttons, touch pads, microphones, speakers, vibrators, cameras, status indicators and a bevy of sensors.

Apple details a button or switch solution that incorporates layers of fabric and permanent magnets. In one embodiment, two magnets are covered in metal and aligned opposite each other in a fabric pocket. Conductive leads are woven into the fabric and connect the switch to a control module.

To keep the switch open, the magnets are aligned to repel each other and are placed in a biasing structure formed from springs or foam. Only when the two conductive components are brought…

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