Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group is working with Levi’s to develop interactive fabrics that would allow the wearer to use their phone just by tapping or swiping their clothes.
Items would connect to a wearer’s mobile phone through simple gestures which would send a wireless signal to the device to activate a certain functionality, such as silencing phone calls or sending a text message.
“Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms,” ATAP explains.
“Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces. This is possible thanks to new conductive yarns, created in collaboration with our industrial partners.
“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. Jacquard yarns are indistinguishable from the traditional yarns that are used to produce fabrics today.
“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. We developed innovative techniques to attach the conductive yarns to connectors and tiny circuits, no larger than the button on a jacket.
“These miniaturised 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.”
A video by Google describes Project Jacquard in more detail:
“LEDs, haptics and other embedded outputs provide feedback to the user, seamlessly connecting them to the digital world,” the group continues.
“Connected clothes offer new possibilities for interacting with services, devices and environments. These interactions can be reconfigured at any time. Jacquard is a blank canvas for the fashion industry.
“Designers can use it as they would any fabric, adding new layers of functionality to their designs, without having to learn about electronics. Developers will be able to connect existing apps and services to Jacquard-enabled clothes and create new features specifically for the platform.
“We are also developing custom connectors, electronic components, communication protocols and an ecosystem of simple applications and cloud services.”
“Levi’s has always stayed true to our iconic products, while continuing to introduce innovations that address the current challenges of modern life,” says Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at Levi’s.
“In our hyper-digital world, people constantly struggle to be physically present in their environment while maintaining a digital connection. 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.
“We’re really proud to be the first official partner for Google’s Project Jacquard and we’re excited for the possibilities it brings.”