On Friday, Google announced its new partnerships with U.S. jean maker Levi Strauss to create new smart fabrics which can be incorporated into clothing. These fabrics have touch screen capabilities, and can be seen as Google’s latest foray into so called ‘wearable tech’. Those familiar with the Google Glass project – which incorporates augmented reality on a traditional glasses frame – will be less surprised that Google is moving further into this field.
This latest development in wearable tech – called Project Jacquard – is led by a small Google team called Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP); which is different from the Google (x) lab that develops big vision projects such as self-driving cars.
Wearable tech is a trend in which companies are increasingly seeking to incorporate technology into our clothing and accessories. These efforts seek to create a more intuitive interaction with computing, IT, and networking; as well as moving towards the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a concept which envisions smart consumer products, infrastructure, buildings, billboards, bus stops etc. that serve many functions.
For instance, instead of just a simple bus shelter, in the Internet of Things, said bus stop would be connected to the internet, display relevant information, have touchscreen interaction points, and communicate with other objects, such as customer phones, buses etc. to create a holistic information environment. In this vein, Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss, states that:
“The work that Google and Levi’s are embarking upon with Project Jacquard delivers an entirely new value to consumers with apparel that is emotional, aspirational and functional.”
In Google’s latest project, connective fibres are interwoven with regular textile fibres, allowing designers to have connective fibres either go unnoticed or stand out as an aesthetic choice. The connective fibres are robust as well, being both stretchable and washable.
Demo participants were able to use hand gestures on a piece of cloth to control lights and computers screens. The connective fibres can be integrated so as to be woven using existing industrial looms. Moreover, the conductive yarn is connected to tiny circuit roughly the size of buttons, which then wirelessly send information to smart-phones, or other devices.