Image Credit: Apple
A recently granted patent shows Apple may implement touch controls and a display to a portion of the HomePod’s protective exterior.
Apple’s Siri-powered, smart home speakers the HomePod mini and the now discontinued original HomePod both feature a touch-sensitive panel on top for quick controls, without yelling “Hey Siri” over your music. A newly granted Apple patent titled “Fabric-covered electronic device with touch sensor” shows the tech giant is considering adding extra functionality to the casing of their speakers, rather than the top panel.
The patent describes controls that will enable tapping or sliding the length of the speaker. While the patent broadly mentions electronic devices, showing the tech could be used elsewhere, the examples given focus in on audio devices.
Electronic devices such as audio devices may include fabric. As an example, the housing of a speaker may be covered with a layer of fabric. Openings may be provided in the fabric to allow sound to be emitted from within the device.
It may be challenging to enhance the functionality of a speaker. For example, it may be difficult to integrate input and output devices into a speaker with a fabric layer. If care is not taken, the user may find it cumbersome to provide input to and receive output from the speaker.Apple Patent
To show the position of touch panels and indicate when touch has been registered, Apple talk of a display in the shape of media control symbols as the image below shows.
Light-emitting components and/or fabric with different visual characteristics may be used to mark where the touch-sensitive regions of the fabric are located. The touch-sensitive regions may be shaped as media control symbols.Apple Patent
The image is reminiscent of Ultimate Ears’ speakers. These Bluetooth speakers are covered in fabric, however the large volume buttons are physical, rather than touch surfaces.
While this patent doesn’t show guaranteed future Apple products, it shows they are at least experimenting with new input methods for their home speakers.