Two years after announcing its plans to develop interactive and connected textiles in collaboration with Levi’s, Google has shared that the very first garment — a commuter jacket is finally close to shipping (but not too soon). Their smart fabric has been integrated into a denim trucker jacket (Levi’s specialty) and will go on sale for $350 this fall, announced Google at SXSW’17.
We hadn’t heard much about Project Jacquard since Google shared an update on the first product they were working on with Levi’s at Google I/O last year. But, Ivan Poupyrev, Technical Program Lead at Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) research unit and Paul Dillinger, Levi’s Head of Global Product Innovation took center stage at SXSW’17 to shed more light on the innovation. They not only recapitulated the fabric technology but also shared details for the availability of the commuter jacket.
Project Jacquard, for those unaware, is an initiative which makes it possible to weave multi-touch sensors and other electronics into your clothes using standard industrial looms. Levi’s combined thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns such as polyester, cotton, and silk to build Jacquard’s yarn structure, making it indistinguishable from traditional yarns. It aims to turn our clothes into smart, connected wearable devices that provide touch and gesture functionality through woven interactive surfaces.
As for the commuter jacket itself, Google has already made us aware that the left sleeve of the jacket will act as a capacitive touchpad. It provides you control to a variety of functions using simple gestures, rubs, and taps from your sleeve. These can be assigned using Levi’s companion Android app, which is super simple to use. All said functionality is, however, activated through a small rechargeable tag on the inside of the left sleeve. This tag currently has a battery life of around two days but the ATAP team plans to increase the same in the coming years.
Talking about the announcement, Poupyrev said,
It was a long road but what’s really impressive, is the entire journey, we stayed true to our vision and what we wanted to achieve. This jacket is going to be sold as a piece of apparel, that was always the vision from the very beginning.
Further, he added that the jacket is currently capable of providing you access to some core smartphone functions such as accepting or declining calls, controlling music playback, getting time or direction updates but that is too limited an experience. Thus, in addition to the currently available functionality, ATAP is now trying to onboard third-party developers onto their smart jacket platform. Google is going to release a Commuter Jacket API later this year to enable developers to create new use cases for Project Jacquard.
— Ipoupyrev (@ipoupyrev) March 11, 2017
Also, those visiting Austin (Texas) to attend SXSW this week, Levi’s is currently showing off Project Jacquard jackets at their Outpost for the duration of the event. So, don’t forget to go out to their Outpost and try on one of these marvelous smart commuter jackets — in both men’s and women’s sizes. It definitely looks like the perfect blend of fashion and technology, which was Google’s aim from the start.