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Google partners with Levi’s to make smart clothes

Google Jacquard mockup

Project Jacquard looks to make smart clothes an everyday fashion option

Google today announced an unexpected partnership, with the technology giant working with one of the world’s most iconic clothing brands – Levi’s. The two companies are set to produce smart-clothing, the next-generation of truly ‘wearable’ technology, though a date for release hasn’t yet been set.

Read all the latest news from Google IO 2015

This joint effort has come out of the company’s freshly-announced Project Jacquard. Google has been hard at work developing smart fabrics that integrate conductive touch interfaces right into the weave of clothing. In doing so, the company could soon integrate a touchpad seamlessly into the arm of your sofa, so you can control your TV without a remote, or add one to the sleeve of your jacket, giving you a far bigger space to make inputs and gestures than a smartwatch can provide.

Google Jacquard chip

Google looks to have had an uphill struggle with all this. It realises that for smart garments to become popular it has to crack the puzzle of mass production – it quoted that 160 times more garments get sold every year than smartphones. Google found that conductive thread (which you may have seen in gloves) only comes in one colour at present – grey – which isn’t going to work for the fashion industry.

The weave has to be done specially so that the conductive threads all come out neatly so they can be hooked up to the electronic chip that detects your inputs. The demo showed the fabric to be senstive to inputs, whether that’s a single finger, multi-touch or even gestures made above the surface of the fabric.

Google Jacquard ecosystem

The ‘softwear’ is just the first step of course, with Google having to produce a whole software pipeline to support it. You’re not going to be buying smart clothes quite yet then, but the technology is already sound and with Levi’s onboard helping with design, manufacturing and retail, it shouldn’t be long.


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