Digital World Native

Levi’s teams up with Google for Internet-connected smart jacket

How would it be you were able to operate your phone with your denim jacket? That’s right. ‘Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google’ is not only a mouthful, it also aims to be the “ultimate connected apparel.” It’s designed for the urban commuter & lets you access smartphone functions like access your music, navigation, text & phone communication, all by swiping your sleeve.

To get digitally connected, the light & stylish Levi’s urban jacket comes with a Jacquard snap tag, which is attached to the cuff. When a gesture is detected, the tag sends a wireless signal to your smartphone. Using the companion phone app, which interfaces with the Jacquard, you can customize your smart-jacket experience.

As Paul Dillinger, Levi Strauss & Co. executive says in a Levi’s blog post:

As we see it, this isn’t just about technology for technology’s sake – it’s about addressing a real need for our consumers on the go. This garment allows cyclists to literally navigate their rides, & manage other simple tasks, while never having to take their eyes off the road. That, to me, is the true triumph of this jacket.

How about operating your smartphone with your denim jacket? That’s right. This product is a result of a partnership between Levi’s & Google’s Advanced Technology & Projects group (ATAP), a self-described skunkworks team & in-house technology incubator at the search company. It was created by former DARPA director Regina Dugan. It concentrates on short projects, & grants project teams 2 years to move a project from concept to proven product.

Project Jacquard gets its name from a type of loom. It’s driving philosophy is to make fabric as touch sensitive as your phone’s screen. The team figured out a way to use capacitive copper cored threads, integrating them into a denim jacket’s manufacturing process. A small Bluetooth dongle device is attached to a button & used to send & receive signals from your phone.

Even with all these electronics the garment feels & wears like a normal denim jacket. You can put it into your washing machine & dryer without shorting out the circuitry, although there are reports that Levi’s purported limit on the number of total wash cycles is 10 (which isn’t a big deal when you consider that most people don’t wash their jackets very often).

After you pair your phone to your jacket using your phone’s app, you can configure a set of gestures, like the equivalent of a tap or double tap on a phone’s screen. You can configure things like player controls on the phone’s audio apps & a whole bunch of other stuff, so that you can forget about needing to touch the phone when you’re biking or walking along.

The app is available for both iOS & Android. The jacket will be available soon in major retail stores in the US & worldwide & is expected to cost US $350.

Image Credit: Levi Strauss & Co