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Apple has been granted a patent that may seem like something straight out of science fiction. The company has developed a color-changing Apple Watch band that users can customize through an accompanying Watch app. The patent even describes the band’s ability to display “icons, shapes, and text” and change colors to signify notifications.
The technology behind the band involves using electrochromic elements, a material that can change color and opacity in response to small electric currents. This same technology is used in auto-dimming rear-view mirrors in cars and in glass-walled conference rooms, where the glass can be instantly switched between transparent and opaque modes.
In the case of the Apple Watch band, the electrochromic elements are interwoven into a piece of fabric, allowing for different colors and designs to be displayed. Apple’s patent describes a three-stripe design, where the color of each stripe can be independently controlled, allowing for both solid colors and stripe patterns to be displayed. The band can be controlled through an Apple Watch app, which allows users to customize the band’s color and style, and even display symbols and words.
The patent notes that people can already customize their watch bands by physically changing them, but this invention removes the need to own multiple bands and saves the effort of swapping them. The band can be adjusted to coordinate with a user’s clothing, other wearable articles, environment, or other preferences.
While electrochromic technology is in widespread use today, Apple’s application of the technology is much more sophisticated than anything seen to date. However, it’s important to note that Apple frequently patents things that never make it to market. In this case, selling interchangeable watch bands is a profitable sub-business for the company, so it remains to be seen if this technology will ever come to fruition.
If it does become a reality, expect it to be expensive. There’s a clear overlap between the demographic that buys multiple bands to coordinate with clothing and the demographic that would buy this product. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see the possibilities of electrochromic technology being applied to wearable tech, and we can’t wait to see what else Apple has in store for us.