Over two years since Google and Levi Strauss announced the Project Jacquard platform, we're now just days away from connected clothing that essentially turns what you wear into the equivalent of the touchscreen on your smartphone or smartwatch.
The first garment in the Jacquard range will be the Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket, with a $350 price tag and will be released 27 September in select stores, followed by a wider launch the following week.
Essential reading:Trying out Project Jacquard
So how does Google and Levi's smart clothing work and why will cycling commuters want to wear this first product? 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 has largely focused on integrating sensors into often quite compressed garments in order to relay data wirelessly to a smartphone. That could involve 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 which sits on the cuff and provides connectivity to your smartphone. This can be removed to plug straight into a USB port to charge it up, while Google claims the flexible cuff should be able to fit most sized jackets.
Project Jacquard: Features
Aimed at cyclists, the Levi's smart denim 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 will also be able to read out your messages aloud, either through your paired headphones or the phone's own speaker. It'll work with Google Maps, Google Play and third party services like Spotify and Strava.
Here's a look at what some of those gestures will look like:
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, LEDs, 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: What's next?
So when will you be able to whip on the Commuter Jacket? Having initially indicated it would land in Spring 2017, Jacquard will now officially go on sale Wednesday 27 September in select stores, and available online from Levi's website starting the week of 2 October. It will only be available in the US to start, we're still waiting for word on a wider release.
As for price, the connected garment will set you back around $350. While this is by no means a light price tag, it's also not completely wild considering this is a first iteration from two big hitters.
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. You can sign up for Jacquard updates on Google's microsite - the mission statement says: "Project Jacquard will allow designers and developers to build connected, touch-sensitive textiles into their own products." Just when this ecosystem begins to take shape, though, remains to be seen.
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