Google and Levi partner to create touch sensitive clothes

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2015-06-03 11:00:00 – UK

The tech giant Google has teamed up with jeans retailer Levi Strauss for a project to make touch sensitive clothes which is to bring a revolution into the textile world. The project Jacquard aims to bring touch goodness to fabrics. So if you want to control a device, you could control it from a track pad built into a fabric, say for example, your clothes or the arm of a sofa.

The name Project Jacquard came from Joseph Marie Jacquard, the French weaver, who invented the a mechanical loom(Jacquard loom) that could produce complexly-woven fabrics with patterns and designs.

The two companies aim to create a pair of jeans which will enable consumers to perform certain actions on their smart phones. Google announced the project during its annual input/output developer conference in San Francisco on Friday.

Google demonstrated the project at the Google I/O, giving us an idea how the hi-tech fabric would work in the future. Someday, devices could be controlled using swipes and taps across your sleeve, trouser leg, dress, or maybe your pocket. Another use could be stuffed toys that could respond to touch for a more interactive play. The project is about smart fabric technology which Google hopes to release commercially someday.

The idea had long been thought of by geeks but this is the first time that Google is venturing into the business. Researchers working on the textile industry found out that conductive thread was made in one color and thickness. Google then started building industrial processes to create a highly-conductive core with colored silk threads. This is very much different from programming or basic printing of fabric.

Google first demonstrated a 20 meter roll of interactive surface and discovered another challenge: how to connect smart threads to electronics. The solution by ATAP was to localize patches and come up with a 3D weaving system that can create sections of interactivity and change direction in any color, size, or shape. The fabrics can be stretched and blended into a core material.

The partnership is part of a bigger initiative that is being conducted by Google called “Project Jacquard”. The project features a type of smart yarn that will allow textile manufacturers to create electronic clothing. Although the internet giant is not the first to work on the creation of clothes that can connect to phones, it appears that the common type of thread that Google are creating would make it easier to produce such merchandise.

Emre Karagozler of Google ATAP said that they are enabling interactive textiles.

When it came to choosing a first partner for Project Jaquard, the Levi's brand was a natural fit, said Ivan Poupyrev, Google ATAP's Technical Project Lead.

According to Paul Dillinger, Levi Straus's Head of Global Product Innovation in the hyper-digital world, people constantly struggle to be physically present in their environment while maintaining a digital connection. The work that Google and Levi's are embarking upon with Project Jacquard delivers an entirely new value to consumers with apparel that is emotional, aspirational and functional.

Jacquard yarns are touch-sensitive and will operate to create garments that are interactive, featuring gestures like swiping and tapping that will forward signals to smartphones and devices to perform various functions. These capabilities include the sending of text messages and making of phone calls.

Google affirmed that this is only the beginning, designers and developers will be creating apps that are specifically tailored to these types of smart clothing. Google’s long-term goal is to link the wearable material to virtually any device available.

The ATAP team showed off a new fabric technology that can track touch. The aim of the Project Jacquard is to produce a conductive fabric that can sense, control, and react to touch. Conductive threads are nothing new but Google plans to go further with the Project Jacquard by doing a more extensive research and development plus partnership with names that matter in the fashion industry.

The idea was to make such patches recognize multitouch gestures, hands, and fingers. This project will never replace touchscreens but simply make smart fabrics as extensions of control surfaces. Someday, they'd be wearing clothes that could control gadgets or sit on couches that have touch arms as TV remote control. The companion electronics still need work but the fabric is almost ready. Ivan Poupyrev of Google ATAP was wearing a suit jacket with a touch-sensitive patch on the sleeve when showing off the project. The companion tech was placed in a secret zippered-pocket. Google partnered with Savile Row tailor in London, UK for a test and conductive fabric was delivered.

Google and Levi's plan to bring jeans tailored from conductive fabrics. It might be long before you could get such pair, It's an interesting project and they are looking forward to further development.

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