The Google ATAP team took to the stage at a very interesting Google IO session this morning to talk about the future of wearable technologies. Google’s ambitions aren’t just more beautiful and functional smart watches, or a refined version of smart glasses. They want to take things a step further and make your clothes smart, too.
Project Jacquard is the result of said ambition. Google has come up with a way to manufacture conductive fabric in a way that’s inexpensive and that can be designed with the flexibility required by any self-respecting fashion designer. More than that, though, they’ve helped develop wireless technology that can seamlessly integrate with fabric to allow it to communicate with a device, such as smartphones, tablets and smart watches.
Conductive fabric is already a thing, if you didn’t know. You can even buy some on Amazon if you want.
The problem is that it’s not very beautiful (most are presented in rough greyscale), it’s not implemented in any fashionable brands, and there’s no meaningful platform for developers and users to easily take advantage of it. Those are the gaps Google hopes to narrow with Jacquard.
They had to start with finding a new way to spin conductive textile in a way that’s both compatible with existing techniques, as well as compatible with a wide range of existing fabrics (such as silk, cotton or polyester).
The result is a fabric suitable, flexible and fashionable enough for designers to make clothing with.
The fabric can be embedded under a layer of other cloth, or even interwoven with existing cloth to make large surface areas for touch.
As you can see, design isn’t sacrificed for functionality. Google then had to find a way to turn all of this:
By the end of it all, you have a piece of clothing that can act as your second touch pad, and an open platform that’ll allow you to translate touch on your jacket (or pants, or whatever it is you’ll wear) into actions on a smart device.
Think of all the things you could do with it:
- Swipe your arm to make a quick phone call
- Double tap your arm to silence an incoming call
- Use your arm as a remote control for controlling presentations, including multi-touch and pinch-to-zoom
This isn’t just poised to become some experimental wet dream that eventually fades into nothingness, either. Google has gone as far as partnering up with top clothing brand Levis to usher the technology into the market in order to transform fashion in a way we have yet to see. You can even see the gentlemen responsible for the teams working on this technology wearing a Project Jacquard jacket in the photo below.
We’re hoping a lot more will jump on board once Project Jacquard takes off and everyone sees just how cool, innovative and forward-thinking this stuff is.
[via Project Jacquard]