Connecting our Clothes: Google and Levi Strauss Weave Together the Future of Wearables

by Matt Klassen on June 16, 2015

It was almost a year ago that we first started to see the lines between the fashion and technology industries begin to blur, as not only was Apple mining the fashion industry for its newest hires, but we saw some traditional clothing companies taking their first strides into wearables as well, designing the first of what will undoubtedly be many connected clothing projects.

As evidence of the possibilities connected clothing offers, Google has teamed up with fashion mainstay Levi Strauss, in an effort to create the first touchscreen jeans, well sort of. Dubbed Project Jacquard, the combined efforts fashion and tech are attempting to bring jeans to market woven with a conductive fibre, material that would potentially allow everyday clothing items to operate much like wearables we see today, such as glasses or smart watches.

Now of course none of this comes as much of a surprise, such connected clothes are simply the next step in what seems to be the world’s growing fascination with the popular Back to the Future movie franchise, as perhaps the disappointment that Marty McFly’s future travel data (Oct. 21, 2015) is rapidly approaching, and we have yet to see much of what that show predicted.

As a video of the Levi/Google project explains, “Google’s woven touch sensor technology is based on a new way to make conductive fibre developed by [Ivan] Poupyrev and colleagues as part of an effort that Google is calling Project Jacquard. Conductive yarn was already on the market, but only in the color gray, he said. Google has developed a way to braid slim copper fibres with textile fibres of any color to make conductive yarn that can be used in existing fabric and garment factories just like yarns they use today, said Poupyrev.”

“We want to make interactive garments at scale so everyone can make them and everyone can buy them,” he added.

Now if successful, the integrated technology of Project Jacquard will ostensibly allow for touchscreens or other interactive interfaces to be present on any fabric covered surface, from smart chairs to connected beach blankets, to Back to the Future-esque smart jackets, truly the sky is the limit when it comes to the possible applications of this technology.

But more than just an extension of our smartphone, connected clothes offer a myriad of other applications that we’ve long seen in science fiction.e limit when it comes to the possible applications of this technology.

As tech blog Disruptive Views writer Alex Leslie explains, “Imagine clothing that gets to know you, jeans that can react not only to temperature, but your own comfort levels. The fabric relaxes as the temperature climbs, contracts when it falls. A click of a button (literally a shirt button) and you share your location until the person you are meeting finds you – even if they have never met you before. Shopping bags with icons that you can touch in order to add certain things to your shopping list. Sheets in hospitals that act as monitors and can send information on patients’ vital signs, without all those tubes and beeping machinery. Sheets that can cool down or warm up…”

Now given that such futuristic integrated clothing has already followed the announcement of smart sneakers—yet another wearable from the Back to the Future II movie—I have to think flying cars will have to follow in short order, that or we all simply need to accept the fact that director Robert Zemeckis gave humanity far too much credit when he envisioned what the world would be like 30 years hence.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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