Microsoft applies for smart fabric patent for use in Surface laptops, wearables

Microsoft Press Photo of Surface Pro 6
Microsoft Image Gallery/Microsoft

Our favorite gadgets may soon offer touch-sensitive surfaces made out of something other than glass.

According to Windows Latest, Microsoft recently filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its development and proposed usage of touch-sensitive smart fabric technology.

The patent application, which was filed in July of 2017 and published on January 24, 2019, describes how the technology conglomerate intends to implement its touch-sensitive smart fabric in a variety of its existing product lines.

The tech appears to involve touch sensors integrated with fabrics to give users more ways to interact with their devices by using touch gestures. Microsoft’s application for the smart fabric patent includes a number of possible of uses for the touch-sensitive fabric. Such proposed uses included its incorporation in tablets, personal computers, holographic computers with head-mounted displays, wearable wristband computing devices, and even home furniture.

The patent application doesn’t name the product lines that could be affected by Microsoft’s proposed use of smart fabrics. However, based on the application’s included descriptions and diagrams of each possible use, it is fairly likely, as both Windows Latest and MSPoweruser reported, that Microsoft HoloLens, Surface 2-in-1 laptops, and Surface tablets will be impacted.

If the smart fabric technology ends up actually being used by Microsoft, the patent application went into some detail as to how it would look when used. For tablets, the smart fabric could be located on the “front side surfaces” and on “a back surface.” For the HoloLens, the fabric would most likely be embedded in the HoloLens’ adjustable band to allow users to control things like a “virtual cursor” and the device’s volume, as well as “scroll through settings.” Smart wristbands (or watches) were also mentioned in the patent application, and their description included the possible use of smart fabrics in the development of GSR (galvanic skin response) sensors, heart rate sensors, and even temperature sensors.

As for home furniture, the patent application shows a diagram in which a computing device is embedded in the arm of what looks like a sofa. But the written description goes further, stating that Microsoft’s smart fabric could also be used to control things like televisions, desktop computers, lighting, and appliances.

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