Thanks to the Internet, technology has become intertwined with our daily lives, playing a part from the moment our smartphones wake us up with an alarm to chilling with Netflix after a long day's work. Now technology is being woven in our very clothes. Meet Project Jacquard and the world's first smart denim jacket that's being built in collaboration between Google and Levi.
Smart clothing is one of the frontiers Google's been embarking on and it found a willing partner in Levi to come for the ride. What they did was integrate Jacquard technology into Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket designed specifically for urban bike commuters. While on the surface it looks like an ordinary jean jacket, the technology woven into it allows wearers to answer phone calls, connect to online services for directions and music playback, and more.
It's all in the fabric. New conductive yarns that Google's Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) team created with industrial partners combine thin metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk. Google says they're indistinguishable from traditional yarns used to produce fabric today, and strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom.
Using conductive yarns, clothes makers can weave touch and gesture sensitive areas at precise locations anywhere on the textile. Sensor grids can also be woven throughout the textile to create large interactive surfaces. For the Commuter, the wearer taps or swipes the jacket's cuff, underneath which sits a detachable smart tag with all the necessary electronics.
Touch and gesture input is wirelessly transmitted to the wearer's smartphone or other mobile gadget, which itself taps into a bevy of online services and apps. In this way a wearer can tap their cuff to start a Spotify playlist while biking across town. Just as important, this is a wearable with a sense of fashion, something that can't really be said for solutions like Google Glass (now Project Aura).
Jacquard jackets will go into beta later this year before shipping to retail in spring of 2017. Pricing information is not yet available.