Google and Levi’s Expand Tech Partnership With Smart Jacket

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Levi's Google Jacquard Jacket

As further evidence that fashion and wearable tech can mix, Levi’s new Commuter Trucker jacket, designed with Google’s Jacquard technology, enables cyclists to wirelessly access their phone and mobile apps to adjust volume, silence a call or get an estimated ETA on their destination.

Announced at Google I/O last week, Google’s ATAP Project Jacquard technology enables gestures including tapping or swiping on a sleeve to activate functionality.

“Anyone on a bike knows that navigating your screen while navigating busy city streets isn’t easy—or a particularly good idea,” said Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation for Levi Strauss & Co, in a press release. “This jacket helps to resolve that real-world challenge by becoming the co-pilot for your life, on and off your bike.”

Project Jacquard weaves technology into fabric to deliver interactive services with a tag embedded in the jacket’s sleeve that connects with the LED, haptics, battery and the woven sensor in the garment removable for USB charging. The connection points are placed in the jacket’s button-hole to be less conspicuous.

Dan Kaufman, head of ATAP, told The Verge, “These fledgling ideas become prototypes, and prototypes become products.”

In addition to being to make and answer phone calls, Levi’s commuter trucker jacket is compatible with Spotify, Google Maps and Strava, said Ivan Poupyrev, head of Jacquard, in The Verge.

This is not “precious” technology, says Levi’s. Consumers can get it dirty, then wad it up and throw it in the washing machine, reports the brand.

Levi's Google Jacquard Jacket

“There’s a unique challenge in creating a smart clothes platform—fashion and technology have to work as one but there’s inherent tension between the two,” said Poupyrev, in TechCrunch. “Technology is fragile, garments are not.”

One year ago, Poupyrev introduced Jacquard at the 2015 Google/IO and said,  “We have to think about making interactive textiles at the scale of the global apparel and fashion industry. We can’t expect them to change just for us—even though we are Google. We have to adapt to the fashion industry.”

Levi's Google Jacquard Jacket

Google chose the name Jacquard from a classic style of elaborate and complex machine weaving.“If you can weave the sensor into the textile, as a material, you’re moving away from the electronics. You’re making the basic materials of the world around us interactive,” Poupyrev told the 2015 I/O audience. “It’s a complete shift from making electronics and attaching them to things to actually creating materials which are interactive by their definition.”

Available in Spring 2017, it’s the first smart garment using Jacquard.

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