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Google working with Levi’s on smart jeans


By Danielle Wightman-Stone

1 Jun 2015

London - Tech giant Google has announced that it is working with iconic US denim brand Levi’s to make smart jeans from specially woven fabric with touch-screen control capabilities.

Entitled Project Jacquard, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects team are looking to smarten up clothing by embedding conductive fibres into any type of woven textile as well as adding super-small computing systems the size of buttons to enhance jeans, jackets, shirts and even underwear with wearable technology.

The conductive fibres, which have been developed by Google through a Japanese firm, makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms, without even requiring modification of the loom. Google is stating that anything involving woven fabric, from apparel to furniture or carpet, could potentially have computer touch-pad style control capabilities woven into them.

Google teams up with Levi’s to make smart jeans

Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s Advanced Technology and Products group, said, “We’ve been looking at conductive garments for over 20 years. What we’ve done is build the interactive element into the textile. We join the yarns with a connector that enables you to connect to a mobile phone or tablet. It’s about the size of a regular Levi’s button and includes a power source and Bluetooth connection.”

The conductive yarn has many uses according to Google, they could be used to weave bespoke touch and gesture-sensitive areas, they could add sensor grids to create large interactive surfaces, and the clothes could even be connected to smartphones. Data can be sent wirelessly enabling actions such as making phone calls or sending messages with a brush of the fabric.

Until now most wearable technology has been limited to accessories, such as the Apple Watch and Google Glass. There has been a few apparel brands interested in adding technology but more regarding reading biometrics or charging elements, such as Ralph Lauren Corp.’s Polo Tech shirt and Opening Ceremony’s phone-charging jacket. This project marks the first time a clothing brand has looked into interactive technology, such as touch-screen controls.

Levi’s are Google’s first partner in Project Jacquard and it is expected that the denim brand will have products based on technology to showcase by autumn/winter 2016.

Images and video – Google