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Levi’s is synonymous with the denim jean, jacket and just about all other articles of denim clothing. Now, according to news reports that are taking the tech world by storm, Levi’s and Google – two global giants in their respective industries – are joining forces to jet propel the humble jean jacket into the 21st Century. That’s right: the future has arrived with the announcement of the first ever “smart” jacket, which is allegedly set for launch later in 2017.
“Project Jacquard,” as it is called, was actually announced almost two years ago in June 2015 with Levi’s and Google promising a line of “smart” clothing that would be able to connect to and interact with the user’s smart device (cell phone, tablet or watch). In May of last year, the Commuter Jacket was revealed and then, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, which was held over this past weekend of March 25th to 26th, Levi’s and Google announced further tantalizing details about their upcoming line of smart clothing. According to Tech Times, which reported on the event, the new smart jacket will be available this fall (Northern hemisphere autumn) and will cost consumers around $350.
The question on everyone’s lips (at least, anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a tech junkie) is… what purpose could a smart jacket possibly serve? How might such a garment benefit your day-to-day functioning?
Fundamentally, Levi’s and Google’s smart jacket is designed to connect to and interact with the wearer’s smartphone and it does this via Bluetooth technology. The jacket’s wrists or cuffs have been made from a special conductive fabric, which functions as the control panel. In other words, by consulting with and manipulating the cuffs of the new smart jacket, you can access and interact with your smart device, without ever pulling it out of your pocket or bag.
According to Ivan Poupyrev, the head of this technical program at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, the jacket works by having some of its constituent threads being replaced by thin, flexible conductive wires. These woven-in wires can sense simple touch gestures very much like a touch screen does.
“I believe this is going to be the first commercial product which takes the touch interaction of the screen and puts it on an actual product,” said Poupyrev at the South by Southwest presentation this past weekend.
And so, to answer our original question – how might a smart jacket benefit the wearer in his or her everyday life – this garment could be used to access one’s music library, listen to music, answer incoming calls and even look up maps to get directions. Just imagine travelling with a smart jacket! As long as your phone carries a charge, you’ll be able to see where you’re going and how to get where you want to be – an enormously attractive benefit to travel lovers.
According to Engadget, the Bluetooth device is attached to the garment as a cuff (can be removed for washing) and connects the 15 conductive threads to the wearer’s smartphone. Furthermore, the batteries for the device are designed to last about two days. Other than the Bluetooth cuff and the conductive fabric (which is really inconspicuous), the new “smart jacket” from Levi’s and Google looks just like any other Levi’s denim jacket.