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Apple patent describes a woven display technology that is a series of tubes

Why it matters to you

Apple's patents don't always lead to products on store shelves, but this one illustrates that Apple has been working on this for a while now and we may see it in action sooner rather than later.

Apple has a habit of filing bizarre patents, but sometimes they end up paving the way for products like the Touch Bar on the 2016 MacBooks Pro. One such patent published on Thursday could end up making its way into a future MacBook Pro, or even your clothes.

The patent in question describes a “woven display” made out of individual light transmissive fibers woven together to create a display on a fabric-like surface. This is not just any flexible display though.

Apple Patent Woven Display 2

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These light transmissive fibers create “light pipes” which differ from embedded LEDs in that they are not actually generating the light themselves. The fibers receive light from the electronic devices and just “pipe” it to the woven display area. So, when it is off, presumably it would behave just like a tightly woven fabric — there are not any electronics in the woven fabric itself.

“Light tubes or light pipes are optical waveguides used for transporting or distributing natural or artificial light for the purpose of illumination,” the patent application reads. “The light pipes receive light from LEDs in the electronic device at the point of connection. … The light pipes can function as an electronic display.”

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The images accompanying the patent show some potential uses including bands for the Apple Watch, with embedded fabric displays, and even a laptop with a secondary display made of woven fibers.

Apple Patent Woven Display 3

That all sounds great, but will Apple actually do anything with this patent? That remains to be seen but there are some indications we could see this light fabric be put to use. For instance, this is not the first light-fabric patent Apple has filed. This application is a follow-up to an earlier patent filed in May 2014 — building on a technology Apple has apparently been working on and incorporating newer methods for using the fabric.