Project Jacquard guide: The lowdown on Google and Levi's smart jacket

Find out when you'll be able to throw on some connected denim
Project Jacquard smart jacket guide

It's happening. Almost a year since Google and Levi Strauss announced the Project Jacquard platform, we have got our first example of connected clothing that essentially turns what you wear into the equivalent of the touchscreen on your smartphone or smartwatch.

The first in the Jacquard range will be the Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket and it's set to go on sale in 2017 with beta testing taking place later this year.

So how does Google and Levi's smart clothing work and why will cycling commuters want to wear it? Here's everything we know about Project Jacquard so far.

Project Jacquard: How it works

The smart clothing kit we've seen so far from the likes of Athos, OMSignal and Hexoskin have largely focused on integrating sensors into often quite compressed garments, to relay data wirelessly to a smartphone. That could be information on heart rate, motion or breathing rate. In most of these cases, they require a small data box that clips onto the clothing to complete the connected package.

With Jacquard, Google and Levi's has produced a conductive yarn that combine thin metallic alloys with yarns that you typically find on clothing. So cotton, polyesters or even silk.

In the case of the Commuter Jacket, this interactive yarn has been used to build touch and gesture sensitive areas on the sleeve and sensor grids can be created for even larger interactive surfaces. This allows designers to take advantage of LEDs, haptic and other outputs to provide feedback for the user.

The fibres are linked to a detachable smart tag, built into the sleeve which provides the connectivity to your smartphone. It's built into the cuff and can be removed to plug straight into a USB port to charge it up. According to Google, the flexible cuff should be able to fit most sized jackets.

Project Jacquard: Features

(Skip to 7.21 in the video above to see the latest on Project Jacquard)

Aimed at cyclists, this smart jean jacket will allow users to control their mobile experience and connect to a variety of services, such as music or maps, directly from the jacket sleeve. In theory, it means you won't have to worry about pulling your phone from your pocket.

You'll be able to dismiss phone calls by swiping over the sleeve, control messages, double tap to get directions, swipe up to see nearby places and swipe down to change music playing from your phone. It'll work with Google Maps, Google Play and third party services like Spotify and Strava.

The Jacquard API will also be released to developers opening up the possibility of more apps taking advantage of the built-in tech. This means they could further embrace audio, gesture and haptic features and even add activity tracking abilities.

Project Jacquard: The jacket

While it's great to have this discreet layer of interaction, there's no point if it's not built into something you'd actually want to wear. The decision to partner with Levi's is a smart one for a number of reasons. It's an iconic brand but there's also the fact that this is a company renowned for making sturdy, robust denim fabric for years.

The design is based on a classic trench coat with the tech built into the cuff and the good news is that you can wash the jacket as well, which will no doubt get a little sweaty on the commute. Just remember to remove the detachable tag before you throw it into the machine.

Levi's has also put a lot of thought on how to make it more cycle friendly as well. For instance, the back of the jacket is longer than the front so you're not showing off too much when riding. It will accommodate a full range of arm movement and the cuffs are deliberately tighter around the wrists.

Project Jacquard: Price and release date

So when will you be able to whip on the Commuter Jacket? Google revealed at one of its I/O 2016 developer sessions that it'll land in Spring 2017, although there's no precise date. There will be a limited beta kicking off in Fall 2016.

There's no news on pricing either but the fact that components for Jacquard are actually pretty cost-efficient to produce and can be created with standard equipment, we're anticipating it won't be too far off the price of a standard Levi's denim jacket.

Project Jacquard: What's next?

It won't just be denim jackets that will get the Jacquard treatment. Google has already revealed that it has its sights set on adding ranges for athletics, business and enterprise to spread that connected clothing love.

Would you buy the Project Jacquard smart jacket? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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