At Google’s I/O conference today, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) research unit offered an update on its interactive textiles project unveiled last year, Project Jacquard. ATAP’s Ivan Poupyrev announced that the company was collaborating with iconic clothing company, Levi’s, to launch a “connected” smart jacket aimed at urban cyclists that will allow wearers to do things like control their music, answer phone calls, access navigation and more, all by tapping and swiping on the jacket’s sleeve.
Google’s partnership with Levi’s was first announced last year, but the two companies hadn’t yet disclosed how the clothing maker would implement Project Jacquard’s technology.
In case you missed it previously, this project involves weaving multi-touch sensors into clothes in order to make what you’re wearing the new…well…”wearable” computing device.
The idea with this new Levi’s Commuter jacket, explained the company, is to make something that’s both fashionable to wear while also representing a practical implementation of the technology.
Today, cyclists often have to fuss with their phone while commuting on busy streets, which is dangerous.
With Levi’s Commuter jacket, they’ll instead be able to just touch their jacket’s cuff, using gestures to control various functions they would otherwise need to pull out their phone to do.
Let’s skip past the ramifications of one day having our clothing hacked and just enjoy the pace of progress here in the 21st century. Ten years ago we were playing “Snake” on 1-inch flip-phone screens and feeling like we were on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Soon, your denim coat will answer your phone for you. If it learns to give me a massage and open a beer, I may be out of things for which to yearn.
Also, as someone who lives in a big city and does a lot of walking around my neighborhood, anything that will make urban cyclists even slightly safer to be around gets a thumbs-up from me. We have dozens of restaurants nearby and it’s easier just to walk to them (yes, people in Los Angeles walk places). I spend more time looking out for cyclists when crossing a street than I do cars, because the cyclists certainly aren’t paying attention.
Even though this “smart clothing” thing will inevitably lead to the government spying on/through our underwear, we’re still in the innocent phase where we can embrace the positive possibilities and leave the dystopian sci-fi stuff for another day.
Which will be here sooner than we want, of course.