Google’s Advanced Technology and Project Group, or ATAP, has developed an innovative user- controlled technology; embedding sensors and feedback devices into clothing.
As a small but intense research and development incubator, ATAP project leaders have just 24 months to turn their ideas into finished products. ‘Project Jacquard’ plans to integrate connected electronics directly into garments, allowing the wearer to interact with their mobile device simply by tapping their sleeve.
The novel concept uses thin metallic, and therefore conductive, alloys combined with a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. By blending conductive threads with silks, cottons and polyesters, the team can weave touch and gesture interactivity seamlessly into any item of clothing.
Virtually identical to regular threads, the conductive thread can be tightly woven into patches and placed in specific areas on the garment, or spread as a sensor ‘grid’ throughout the textile.
Using the smallest of electronic devices, all of the gadgets needed to link your clothing to your smart phone are shrunk to the size of a button. The captured touch and gesture data can then be beamed wirelessly to any mobile or connected device to control a wide range of functions and apps.
With the incubation period of Google’s ATAP projects so short, an easy journey to market is crucial. The interactive fibres can be threaded into any standard industrial loom, cutting out any need for specialised equipment. By fitting into the existing manufacturing framework, production of interactive items is both scalable and cost effective.
Project Jacquard x Levi’s
To test the threads to the fullest, Project Jacquard has joined forces with world-famous denim brand, Levi’s, creating a jean jacket with a difference. Based on Levi’s existing ‘Commuter Trucker Jacket’, Jacquard technology gives city cyclists hands-free connectivity. With simple taps and swipes to their wrist, commuters can receive map updates; line up songs; and even take- or dismiss- calls on the fly.
Connective threads are woven using Levi’s own denim textiles, making Jacquard’s jacket almost indistinguishable from the current range. All electronics are neatly packed into a detachable tab on the cuff, meaning the jacket can even be washed like regular denim.
Originally expected to hit the high street this spring, delays in development mean we won’t be seeing Levi’s novel wearable on the shelves until much later this year. With a price tag in the region of £275 ($350 US) the jacket matches up with top-level smart watches, but with an added bonus of keeping you warm and dry.
While its usefulness in daily life off the bike is still to be seen, we are definitely liking the idea of more wearable wearables!