But the coming week at its I/ O developer conference, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects( ATAP) group presented off the latest updates to Project Jacquard, its experiment to embed technology in the clothes we wear.
A decidedly different type of wearable, with Jacquard, Google may be able to accomplish something that has so far evaded the company: Create wearable tech that’s appealing to more than only geeks and early adopters.
When Google presented off Jacquard at last year’s I/ O, it was a very early prototype more of a theory than something that was ready for mass production.In the year since, Jacquard has evolved from theory to viable product, with the first Jacquard-enabled jacket expected to made shelves in Levi’s stores in 2017.
How it works
While Jacquard has become much more refined since its first debut, the basics remain the same. The core of the technology is a fabric that’sspecially woven with conductive thread, which allows it to act as an interactive touchpad.Levi’s Jacquard-enabled jacketcontainsaswath of this fabric on the edge of one sleeve.
That touchpad itself is powered by a small dongle, or “tag, ” that connects to the sleeve’s cuff. The tag, which charges via USB, is designed to look like the snaps and buttons on the rest of the jacket, though the current iteration is perceptibly bulkier than the snaps you would typically find on a sleeve. The tag is also equipped with an LED light that changes colours based on what you’re doing.
The final piece of Jacquard is a smartphone app, which allows you to configure how gestures map to the apps “youre using” whether “youre using” a tap or a swipe to answer the phone, instance. Right now there are about eight different gestures, which are used to control the various apps Jacquard supports.
These apps can be Google services, like maps and search, or third-party apps like Strava and Spotify( both of whom are already working with Google on Jacquard consolidations .)
At this phase, you may be thinking, “okay, that’s nice but why the heck would I want any of that in my jacket ? “
The simple answer is because it’s a lot easier to touch your limb than it is to use the apps on your phone. Imagine being able to pick up a phone call, get directions or queue up your next playlist without touching your phone at all. Levi’s and Google have highlighted cycling as one big employ instance there’s a reason why Levi’s is bringing the garment to its “commuter” line first.
Why you might actually want this “wearable”
Wearable technology is still far from mainstream. Partly because of the cost, and partly because much of it simply isn’t that appealing to most people at the least not yet.But by making wearable technology part of your actual clothing, Google ultimately got a real shot at attaining making a wearable that doesn’t look like like you’re wearing a piece of technology.
Ivan Poupyrev, project lead for Project jacquard at ATAP said his team was particularly careful to stimulate Jacquard feel “authentic” to clothing.
“It was my strong decision that Google should not try to make its own clothes because the depth of knowledge of a company like Levi’s, the depth of understanding of details and what it takes to make a great piece of clothing is really really deep, ” he tells Mashable . “Replicating that, I dont believe is possible or needed.”
So what’s next
Levis Jacquard-enabled jacket is expected to go on sale next spring, with a developer release slated for afterward this year. Levi’s says exact details around the launch are still unclear but the jacket will be available in “key flagship stores” like San Francisco. As for cost, Levi’s Head of Global Product Paul Dillinger, says it will be “well within” the cost phase of the rest of the line( jackets currently go for about $148 – $178 ), though it will be likely be more than the other jackets currently in the line.
Levi’s aside, Poupyrev points out that the goal of Jacquard is to stimulate the technology available to many clothing makers , not only one or two brands. Of course, much will depend on how consumers respond to this new category ofwearables. But perhaps, eventually, “wearables, ” will be no different than the clothes we’re already wearing.
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