Google's ATAP advanced experimental projects division has teamed up with iconic American workwear brand Levi's to create a jacket with the tech giant's new Project Jacquard tech built in, with touch-sensitive fibres and hands-free Bluetooth control of a connected smartphone — which might come in especially handy for city cyclists.
Levi's is calling it "the first ever smart garment", and that means it has interactive fibre — a touch sensitive panel on the jacket's left arm can be tapped or swiped in much the same fashion as the tactile ear-cup of Parrot's Zik 3.0 headphones, letting you play or pause or skip music tracks, as well as answer or reject calls and respond to notifications.
Project Jacquard is the Google group behind the interactive fibre, and that fibre connects to a removable, USB-rechargeable dongle of sorts that has a small Bluetooth transceiver that can connect to your phone and work — presumably with a partner app in the same way that Android Wear does — to bring your notifications and apps from your safely stored phone, to your jacket, to your headphones.
Google and Levi's have a surprisingly straightforward explanation for the way that it works:
It all starts with a conductive yarn woven into the fabric—in the same way traditional materials are made—to create an interactive textile that links seamlessly with services and applications through interactive touch. The digital connectivity is provided through a smart tag, and apart from this detachable tag, the whole interactive garment is washable and durable like regular denim. Simple inputs like swipes or taps on the jacket can connect to the device’s functionality to control music and silence calls, where the touch then registers wirelessly to a phone or tablet. Jacquard is a platform, and with the Levi’s® Commuter™ Trucker Jacket , you decide what it does for you. A fully integrated app will allow the user to program the level of interaction with their device, and what features are most important to them adjusting music volume, silencing a call, or getting an estimated ETA to their location.
We're expecting the Levi's Commuter x Jacquard by Google (what a name) smart jacket to hit Australian shores in spring of 2017. There's no price tag for it just yet, but don't expect it to be cheap.