Sheer Innovation – that’s what Google’s ATAP (Advanced technology and Projects) division has continued to symbolise ever since its inception. Adding another super awesome experiment to its kitty, Google ATAP has today debuted Project Jacquard, a new way to weave sensors into your clothes, with Levi’s being Google’s first partner for the project.
Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms, Google says, with everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.
Google’s ATAP division has made this possible thanks to new conductive yarns, created in collaboration with its industrial partners.
Project Jacquard yarn structures combine thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk, making the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom. These yarns are indistinguishable from the traditional yarns that are used to produce fabrics today.
So how exactly did Google’s ATAP team go about it ? Well, the obvious first hurdle was to create a yarn, which could be mass produced and woven into fabrics like regular yarns. So the entire team went out to talk to partners,to create a yarn that was conductive but would still resist the stresses of industrial garment manufacturing.
Using conductive yarns, bespoke touch and gesture-sensitive areas can be woven at precise locations, anywhere on the textile. Alternatively, sensor grids can be woven throughout the textile, creating large, interactive surfaces.
But once conductive yarns have been created, embedding other required electronic components is a herculean task. The ATAP team went around the obstacle by engineering complementary components to be as discreet as possible. The team developed innovative techniques to attach the conductive yarns to connectors and tiny circuits, no larger than the button on a jacket. These miniaturized electronics capture touch interactions, and various gestures can be inferred using machine-learning algorithms.
Captured touch and gesture data is wirelessly transmitted to mobile phones or other devices to control a wide range of functions, connecting the user to online services, apps, or phone features. LEDs, haptics, and other embedded outputs provide feedback to the user, seamlessly connecting them to the digital world.
And Google has made sure that Project Jacquard is completely scalable and ready for industrial production. Jacquard components are cost-efficient to produce, and the yarns and fabrics can be manufactured with standard equipment used in mills around the world. One loom can generate as many different textile designs as there are people on the planet. Now that same loom can also weave in interactivity.
The team is already working with creatives in the fashion industry. The first partner the company announced today is Levis.