Jacquard is the first concept that brought the tech giant Google and the successful clothing brand Levi's together, following the project announcement in May, last year. At the South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, project leaders from both the companies showcased details about their first "smart jacket".
At the first glance, it does look like a humble jacket; but it indeed is the latest advancement in wearable technology, a product truly the result of Google's best and the brightest minds.
The Project Jacquard panel members at the SXSW described the aim of this smart interactive jacket, which is meant to serve as a tool for the bikers to avoid potential dangers of fiddling with a cellphone while riding.
Unlike other Google wearables the Jacquard interactive jacket doesn't have an obvious display screen; instead there is a nearly invisible fabric interface that is woven into the left wrist of the clothing piece. Users can control certain functions on their smartphone by tapping and swiping this almost invisible screen. The only visible piece of technology on this commuter jacket is a small clip located on the left sleeve cuff, as was reported by The Christian Science Monitor. But it wasn't always designed that way, explained the project leaders.
"At first, we wanted to put a display on it, the bigger the better. But Paul said 'no, there can't be blinks on the jacket, we don't do that. Our customers are cool urban people and blinking on your jacket is uncool,'" said the technical program lead at Google's Advanced Technology And Products (ATAP) group, Ivan Poupyrev, at the SXSW.
The jacket uses a special Jacquard yarn, which combines a conductive metal alloy along with a traditional fabric and "makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms."
The main challenge for the companies to develop this jacket was to make it machine washable, since it has all these technological functionalities inside it. "It became the ultimate tension between our expertises – you don't drop your smartphone in there," Paul Dillinger, vice president for global innovation at Levi's, told SXSW attendees.
But, the brains behind this genius idea did indeed come up with a solution – an extended USB drive. To enable the digital capabilities of the jacket, wearers just have to plug the USB into a small inlet on the underside of the left wrist and once they remove it, it's just another normal, humble jacket.
As showed in the promotional video (below), the benefits of this Jacquard commuter jacket include the wearer's ability to swipe from one song to another and get map updates without having to pull out a cellphone or glance at a smart watch.
The Jacquard jacket is expected to go on sale for $350 in the fall.