Today, Google and Levi’s reveal the first garment that was created through Project Jacquard, a partnership to develop interactive denim woven with conductive fibers.
At Google’s developer conference, the two iconic San Francisco companies — one bred through the gold rush, the other through the digital age — shared the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket, designed for the urban cyclist.
As Levi Strauss & Co. vice president of global product innovation Paul Dillinger said, it was important to create something useful with this technology. “Unless there’s a good product, there’s no point.”
The jacket’s sleeve includes conductive yarn woven into the fabric, made on a loom just as any other fabric, and allows the wearer to control and connect to services such as music and maps. The wearer can control the functionality with swipes and taps to touch-enabled areas on the wrist portion of the jacket’s sleeve, and uses an app to program functionality.
The electronics are stored in a removable smart tag; everything else is washable and looks and acts like a traditional denim jacket. The Jacquard yarn combines thin, metallic alloys with yarns — cotton, polyester or silk — and is strong enough to be woven on industrial looms.
In other words, don’t call this a “wearable.” “We think of it as a smart garment — a connected garment,” explained Google’s Ivan Poupyrev, a technical program lead at the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects, or ATAP, division. “We were thinking about enhancing and extending the functionality of a garment, with the same materials and same techniques as any normal Levi’s jacket.”
The jacket will arrive in Levi’s stores and web site in the spring of 2017, and although the price will be slightly above the average jacket, it will be within the range of Levi’s current product assortment, Dillinger said.
Although this is the first iteration of what is possible, Poupyrev said he is excited about the possibilities and what developers might create. Google has not yet shared the developer kit that will enable creators to apply their own designs and functionality to the technology, as the first focus, he said, was creating a jacket that could stand on its own as a great product.
The partnership was introduced at last year’s developer conference, where the two shared their vision of creating garments that acted as a platform. “This isn’t a launch, it’s a platforming opportunity,” Dillinger said. “It becomes a home to new forms and applications that we haven’t thought of yet.”
Ultimately, objects with fabrics, from clothes to furniture, can become interactive surfaces. “We want to make a point that it’s a new category of product,” Poupyrev said. “And this is the first product that is emerging.”