This fall, Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Google and Levi Strauss & Co. will release a smart jacket developed under the name Project Jacquard. The companies first announced their plans to work on connected garments nearly two years ago. Until today, no pricing or availability details were known.
Google visionaries and Levi’s style icons discussed the new smart jacket on a panel titled Beyond the Screens: the Ubiquity of Connectivity at South by Southwest in Austin this weekend. The event presented the two collaborators with a high-profile opportunity to show and explain the new jacket to the public.
The Jacquard commuter jacket contains a screen-less fabric touch interface on the left wrist that is practically invisible. That surface lets the wearer control certain actions on their smartphone while wearing the jacket.
An extended USB stick slides into the jacket and snaps into place as a cuff button. The button then briefly glows in a blue circle, giving the user visual confirmation that systems are activated. Without the USB in place, the jacket’s smart capabilities will not work.
The jacket will let you get directions, adjust the volume on your music or answer a phone call with finger swipes on the jacket’s fabric. The jacket has five accepted gestures: double tap, full palm, brush out, brush in, and a circular motion. Jacquard also alerts the user to calls or texts with a small rumble on the wrist.
Google developed an app allowing users to assign meanings to things done on the surface. Initial setup is also done through the app. Google and Levi’s hope to add more functions down the line.
The Jacquard commuter jacket looks like another variation of the sleek Levi’s trucker jacket. The jacket also contains standard features from Levi’s commuter line, including reflective strips and sleeve pockets.
The touch-enabled area of the jacket does not look or feel any different than other Levi’s products. The left wrist doesn’t wear differently than the right one. You can’t wash the USB device, but you can wash the button.
Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s Advanced Technology And Products (ATAP) group, said, “I believe this is going to be the first commercial product which takes the touch interaction of the screen and puts it on an actual product.” The jacket is expected to go on sale for $350 this fall.
Jacquard’s conductive yarn enables the use of touch sensors or haptic feedback right within the materials themselves. The project is starting as part of a denim jacket, but it can be applied to any fabric.
Levi’s has also created a brand installation near the Austin convention center, so interested parties can learn about, demo, and wear the new Jacquard tech. The installation will be open throughout the week. Interested potential customers can sign up to receive updates about the project through atap.google.com/jacquard.