Google and Levi’s want people to beta test their smart clothing, starting later this year. The companies have teamed up on a smart jacket for bicyclists that will allow wearers to control their smartphones using sensors woven into the cuff.
The jacket is part of the continuing development of Project Jacquard, a system for turning fabric into a digital sensor that can then be linked with a smartphone to control applications like music players and navigation. Google first showed off the project at its I/O developer conference last year and spent the intervening months further refining its development.
The Commuter smart jacket is a key step for wearable technology because it’s more stylish and less obtrusive than a smartwatch. Its intelligent functionality is powered by a rechargeable digital clip that attaches to the jacket’s cuff. Remove it, and the jacket looks like a normal piece of clothing.
The Commuter jacket is supposed to be as durable as a regular jacket — it’s not supposed to be a precious piece of technology that has to be babied by its wearer. The jacket is designed to be hung up, crumpled up and tossed in a bag, thrown over a chair, and even put through a washing machine, said Levi’s Vice President Paul Dillinger.
It’s built like the other jackets in the Levi’s Commuter line, which are designed for bicyclists, complete with vents and a back that’s cut lower than the front for added comfort while riding a bike.
There’s still a question of price, though. Google and Levi’s haven’t said how much the jacket will cost, but it seems likely to be more expensive than Levi’s current Commuter jackets, which retail for more than US$100.
The jacket will be available in beta later this year, and the two companies are aiming to release it to consumers in 2017.
Google isn’t stopping with just building one jacket, though. The company is working with commercial uniform maker Cintas to bring Jacquard into the enterprise as well. The companies haven’t said what form that collaboration will take, but it will be interesting to see how smart uniforms play in a business setting.