The techniques behind ‘Project Jacquard’ of Google and Levi’s

Rifat Tabassum Shuchi       
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Have you ever dreamt of a jacket that will let you navigate through the traffic and at the same time make you look attractive? Wait! You don’t have to let your imagination fly anymore as Google Jacquard brings it to reality.

Figure 1: A smart jacket developed by Google in association with Levi's®
Figure 1: A smart jacket developed by Google in association with Levi’s®

Google Jacquard, a division within the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects or ATAP group in partnership with Levi’s approaches wearable technology such as Trucker Jacket for urban bike commuters. Levi’s has a reputation of over 50 years and it is known for its functional and designed garments. It kicked off its journey at 1800 by crafting jeans for miners, now innovating new products with Jacquard. This jacket allows you to use your smartphone and utilize mobile services at the difficulty of using it such as while you are riding on your cycle. With a swipe of your sleeve, it will let you:

  1. Navigate your city
  2. Connect to your surroundings
  3. Communicate with ease

Wearable technologies are supposed to solve a real problem not a perceived one. This is where this Trucker Jacket is different from previous wearable technology as it has real applications in utility. It has a convenient, promising and a bolder form of design. The design is on its left sleeve which acts as an invisible screen. This Jacquard features connective yet authentic textiles by weaving touch and gesture interactivity onto it using industrial looms. When you leave your taps or swipes on the left cuff on its sleeve, these swipes will deliver as touch inputs. These touch inputs are sent to your device via Bluetooth attachment which are attached as a cufflink.

Figure 2: Picture demonstrates an improvised Bluetooth device attached as a cufflink
Figure 2: Picture demonstrates an improvised Bluetooth device attached as a cufflink

Coming to its construction, the conductive yarns are meshed into the whole jacket through which the gesture connectivity and touch activates at the precise area of the garment. The jacquard produces conductive yarns which are cost-efficient. These conductive yarn structures combine thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk which makes the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom.

Figure 3: Textiles with touchscreen features by Project Jacquard
Figure 3: Textiles with touchscreen features by Project Jacquard

Project Jacquard is about turning any type of textile into a touchscreen-like input device

Figure 4: Embedded electronics in the fabric
Figure 4: Embedded electronics in the fabric

The Levi’s innovation team contributed to design the connective denim jackets by using these conductive yarns which has digital functionality. Jacquard innovated techniques which attach the conductive yarns to connectors and tiny circuits, no larger than the button on a jacket. This jacquard is a canvas for designers because they can add any layers of functionality to the design without having knowledge of electronics. This dynamic jacket is washable when you remove the tag from your cuff which handle the electronics wirelessly to your device.

To meet customer’s immediate need, Google and Levi’s want to add more gestures into its software as right now it has three available gestures- a swipe in, a swipe out, a double tap. Though the mobile apps are already pretty customizable, Google are still working to develop it to make it more practical pieces to the customer. “We’ve been going through continuous consumer wear testing to refine the jacket and its abilities. We want to be sure we take the time to get it right and provide a great experience for people”, a Google spokesperson said.

This wearable tech will be less cumbersome to handle and also have no negative impact on your well-being. This smart jacket will cost around only $350 when it goes on sale which will be first commercial product of Google’s ATAP group coming out this fall. Though it’s pricier than any other stylish garment of Levi’s, it is worth considering its aesthetic look and functionality.

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