Apple Patents ‘3D Fabric’ for Future Apple View Bands

Future Apple View bands could possibly do a great deal more than just keep the unit to your wrist. In point, Apple is actively exploring how it can add added performance to the bands.

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office environment posted a trio of Apple patent apps on Thursday, every detailing a different approach of producing sophisticated cloth-embedded technology. To be more distinct, Apple is evidently exploring how to embed electrical components these as sensors, microphones, speakers, buttons, touch-sensitive switches and other user interface apparatuses into versatile fabrics. Of class, the apps are prepared in the usual dense, specialized jargon. But they do trace at Apple’s greater ambitions with its Apple View platform.

3D Material Patents

The initial of the patents, “Three-Dimensional Material With Embedded Input-Output Units,” explains a approach for producing 3D braiding gadgets that can weave cloth with tiny, inside pockets. These pockets can then be used to house a range of components, together with touch pads, buttons, speakers, microphones, cameras and sensors.

The second patent, “Fabric with Embedded Electrical Factors,” facts a related approach of embedding critical hardware within just a woven product. These components could interface with a key unit by way of electrical contacts that act as terminals by using conductive fibers. Basically, they can ship or acquire commands to a unit that they are attached to.

The third patent, titled “Fabric sensing unit,” is arguably the most intriguing. Even though its key aim is concealed within just dense language, it explains a approach of producing a touch-sensitive textile or cloth. In essence, a cloth — regardless of whether a band or other wearable — could right sense user touch or pressure. And its use could lengthen beyond Apple View bands, as the patent specifically points out that the sensing cloth could be embodied in a garment, these as a jacket sleeve.

Definitely, the implications of strap- or cloth-embedded sensors are wide-ranging. A long run Apple View could integrate textile-primarily based sensors into its design and style, possibly with the system of these a unit getting to be much more nominal. An sophisticated View band could activity contextual UI inputs, also — these as a distinct cloth “button” to invoke Siri.

And, though it is in all probability a techniques off, the technology in the patents could certainly direct to other merchandise of “smart garments.” Even though an “Apple jacket” could possibly seem to be like a considerably-fetched thought now, owning merchandise of garments that combine and interface with our gadgets is solidly within just the realm of fact. Some would say that it is only a make any difference of time before they are on keep shelves.

Apple has had programs for its View straps for very some time now. Previous 12 months, Apple filed a patent software that advised a wearable could grow to be thinner by shifting specific components — these as a haptic comments motor — into its band or strap. Even though it is wanting not likely that the future Apple View Sequence 3 will employ any of this technology, taken with each other, today’s patents could trace that Apple has bigger programs. Not only for its Apple View but for cloth-primarily based and wearable technology in general.

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NASA’s Wild Fabric Is Basically Chain Mail From the Future

Traveling to outer space is an exercise in efficiency. At $10,000 per pound onboard, it pays to keep things light. But space is also an incredibly complex environment, requiring tons of hefty equipment just to exit the atmosphere. To minimize the weight of its payload, NASA has experimented with inflatable materials that can balloon into habitats, and tangles of lightweight rods that can shift shape on different terrains. Now, designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a foldable fabric that could pull triple duty during outer space missions.

Researchers at JPL spent the last two years developing a metallic space fabric made of interlocking stainless steel squares. It looks like chain mail, but unlike the ancient armor, NASA’s fabric isn’t welded together. Instead a 3-D printer extrudes stainless steel as a continuous sheet of material with different properties on each side. From the front of the fabric, rows of shiny, flat squares can reflect heat and light. On the back, a series of interlocking loops help the fabric absorb heat. Together, the single piece of material acts like a super-strong shield, protecting astronauts and spacecrafts from outer orbit’s deadly obstacles.

The fabric isn’t special in its functionality, per se; NASA already employs materials on its spacecrafts to reflect heat, absorb heat, and protect from flying debris. But until now, NASA didn’t have a single material that could do all three. “We wanted to see if a structure could do something beyond being a static piece of material,” says Raul Polit Casillas, a systems engineer at JPL who worked on the new fabric.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA could bake multiple properties into the single material thanks to 4-D printing, a burgeoning manufacturing technique that uses a 3-D printer to layer multiple textures and geometries into a single design. MIT researcher Skylar Tibbits coined the phrase several years ago to show how a 4-D printed material could shape-shift or self-assemble. Using 4-D printing, for instance, engineers could program a piece of metal to unfold at a certain heat or design a plastic to expand or contract under certain environmental conditions. Or, in the case of NASA’s space fabric, a fabric with flexible geometry that can both reflect and radiate heat.

Unlike sheets of metal, the chain mail can bend and fold with little effort while still remaining strong. This makes it a valuable material onboard a spacecraft full of stiff, hard materials. Polit Casillas says astronauts could print the material onboard the spacecraft and use it to deflect heat on deployable components like antennas and reflectors. It could just as easily be used on missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa, where the rough side would act like tire treads on the moon’s icy surface, or as armor for astronauts and vessels.

“Of course,” Polit Casillas adds, “you could use this for fashion, too.”

NASA is still at the beginning stages of its 4-D printing explorations, but Polit Casillas expects that his team will eventually develop materials with more advanced built-in capabilities. Soon, you might see fabrics that move electrons, transfer energy, and shape shift. The point, he says, is to “increase the science we can do per kilogram.” Doing more with less doesn’t always result in the best product, but in this case, it lends itself to some very cool science.

NASA eyes “chain mail” fabric for use in space

To protect its spacecraft from the rigors of deep space, a team of NASA engineers is turning to a time-honored — and battle-proven — solution: chain mail. Led by Raul Polit Casillas, whose mother is a fashion designer in Spain, the group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a prototype fabric that puts an extraterrestrial spin on the armor of yore.

The fabric is strung together from a series of articulated metallic tiles, which reflect light on one side and absorb it on the other, providing a mechanism for thermal regulation. Pliable yet durable, it can also be manipulated into a variety of shapes without ceding tensile strength. 

That versatility makes the material well-suited for a range of potential applications — shielding objects deployed in space from debris, say, or insulating space suits for astronauts, JPL researchers said in a statement. Future explorers could even use it to pave over unstable alien terrain without melting the ice beneath. [Cosmic Threads: Astronauts Inspire Space-Age Fashion]

Unlike its medieval counterpart, which involved linking together tiny rings of hand-forged steel, JPL’s take employs the far less laborious process of 3D printing — or 4D, depending on whom you ask. 

“We call it ‘4-D printing’ because we can print both the geometry and the function of these materials,” Polit Casillas said in the statement. “If 20th century manufacturing was driven by mass production, then this is the mass production of functions.”

Additive manufacturing — basically 3D printing on an industrial scale — makes the process of creating novel materials cheaper and easier. And that’s even without taking into account future leaps and bounds in technology.

The quick turnaround, in particular, makes tinkering with designs a cinch. 

“We are just scratching the surface of what’s possible,” said Andrew Shapiro-Scharlotta, whose office at JPL funds research for emerging technologies like Polit Casillas’ fabric. “The use of organic and non-linear shapes at no additional costs to fabrication will lead to more efficient mechanical designs,” he added in the statement. 

Equally flexible is the composition of the fabric itself. For their prototype, Polit Casillas and his colleagues used standard 3D-printer grist: plastic filaments that are melted and deposited in layers, then exposed to UV light to fuse them into shape. 

chainmail2.png

The front of NASA’s new space fabric reflects light while the back absorbs it, helping regulate the temperature of whatever’s inside.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Future astronauts, on the other hand, may make do with found materials such as the native soil of other worlds or by recycling cast-off hardware. After all, squandering resources is a luxury you can ill afford when you’re light-years from Earth, Polit Casillas said. 

But even those of us on terra firma today can imbue objects with unique functionalities beyond the structural. 

An aluminum plate with a heat-radiating design, for instance, is far more useful than one without. 

“I can program new functions into the material I’m printing,” Polit Casillas said. “That also reduces the amount of time spent on integration and testing. You can print, test and destroy material as many times as you want.”

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Twitter sells Fabric mobile developer platform to Google | VentureBeat | Dev

Twitter launched Fabric in 2014 as a means to enable developers to create better mobile apps, but fast-forward three years and the division is being sold to Google. On Wednesday, it was announced that the Fabric team and technology will be joining Google’s Developer Products Group to work with the Firebase team.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Fabric, Crashlytics, Answers, and any other related products will continue to operate as normal — the only difference is who will be maintaining them: Twitter in the short-term and Google thereafter.

In a blog post, the Fabric team explained that it has a similar mission to Google: “Helping mobile teams build better apps, understand their users, and grow their businesses.”

Digits does not appear to be part of the move, as developers are instructed to work with the Twitter Community forums for support. MoPub also has not been included in the deal. So Google is just getting the tools specifically geared towards developing apps, not marketing or monetizing them.

According to Google’s Firebase product manager Francis Ma: “As a popular, trusted tool over many years, we expect that Crashlytics will become the main crash reporting offering for Firebase and will augment the work that we have already done in this area.” He went on to state that “the integration of Fabric is part of our larger, long-term effort of delivering a comprehensive suite of features for iOS, Android and mobile Web app development.”

Fabric now reaches more than 2.5 billion active mobile devices, a 25 percent increase from April, when Twitter announced the mobile developer kit was installed on 2 billion devices. More than 580,000 mobile app developers build on top of it, up 158 percent from last February’s 225,000 number. It’s a packaged suite of tools that developers need to build their apps, including Crashlytics for app performance, MoPub for advertising, Fastlane — which Twitter acquired — for continuous deployment, and even third-party integrations such as Stripe, Amazon Web Services, and others.

It’s interesting that Twitter has sold perhaps its biggest resource to developers, more than a year after chief executive Jack Dorsey apologized to the community for failing to treat them better. Following the company’s Flight conference in 2015, it embarked on a #HelloWorld campaign to hear from developers what Twitter should be doing. “We need to listen, learn, and have this conversation with you. And we want to start that today. We want you to tweet at us and tell us what you’d like to see more of, see us consider, see us change in our policy,” Dorsey said.

In short, Twitter wanted a second chance with developers. The acquisition of Fabric by Google may not be well received by developers.

Announcing today’s news, Dorsey reiterated his strategy for Twitter, saying that the company is focusing on the core products and business in order to ensure long-term growth. And while Fabric is no longer a part of Twitter, he emphasized that there will be continued investment in the service’s public APIs, Twitter Kit, TweetDeck, MoPub, and Gnip.

You can queue up all the jokes around Google buying Twitter bit by bit, but the acquisition of Fabric appears to be a win for the Alphabet company. After all, incorporating the technology of the developer kit into helping developers build better and stronger Android apps is a plus. Unfortunately, it’s not a good sign of what’s happening to Twitter.

To find out the specific terms of Fabric, Answers, Beta Tester, and Crashlytics after the acquisition’s close, click here.