A new member has been added to the family of Internet of Things, Smart Clothes!
On Friday, Google announced its teaming up with world-famous US jean company Levi Strauss to make digitally connected clothing that has touch-screen control capabilities.
Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, known as ATAP, has come up with a fabric material that can sense touch gestures. The group is working on new version of conductive yarn and woven multitouch panels, that can turn regular clothes into interactive devices. “We are enabling interactive textiles,” Emre Karagozler of ATAP said as the smart fabric was set up to look like coming out of the loom. He added, “We do it by adding conductive thread into fabric.”
The annual developers conference in San Francisco served as the platform for launching the Project Jacquard to announce its teaming with Levi Strauss. The project has got its name from a Frenchman who invented the loom. The ATAP team which works on the project is different from the other research team Google lab that works on self-driving cars.
The demo of the fabric at the site showed how swiping one’s hand over the sleeve of the jacket or side of your jeans to silence a phone. Song can be played with a tap of the finger. The tapping and swiping also has the ability to control Philips Hue light bulbs and has the potential for various other uses.
This wearable textile has special threads that can be woven into range of fabrics and depending on the designer’s wishes the threads can be completely hidden and go unnoticed. “It is just like normal fabric. It is stretchable and washable,” said Karagozler when concerns were raised how it would feel to wear it.
“This is science fiction and as a fashion designer, it is not really a project that I’m entirely equipped to take on,” said Paul Dillinger, vice president of Levi’s innovation. Conductive fabric is not totally new, it has been on rounds for decades, but this collaboration of two big companies will stand for the first forays for the technology in the bigger markets globally. The clothing industry produces 19 billion garments a year which is 150 times more than the production of mobile phones.
No clear date has been mentioned so far regarding the launch of the smart clothes in the market for the public. Also, details on what product they are going to create has not be disclosed, though jeans seems to be topping the charts now. But Dillinger has promised that the process would be iterative, fast and fun. It is expected that the smart clothing could help people interact with the real world rather than just looking at their smartphones.
“We cannot expect global fashion industry to change just for us even though we are Google,” said Ivan Poupyrev of Google. He added, “We have to adapt to the textile industry.” To make the concept more than novelty, ATAP has been conducting studies in textile expert places like Japan to a conductive yarn that can withstand any tough process of industrial weaving and also, to make the clothes look more appealing.
“If there is chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world – while maintaining eye contact with the person we are eating dinner with – this is real value,” says Dillinger.