Last year, denim pioneer Levi’s announced a collab with Google to create what they promised would be the world’s first “smart denim jacket.” This week, they delivered a working version at the SXSR conference in Austin, Texas.
The jacket uses conductive threads developed as part of Google’s “Project Jacquard” technology, resulting in a jean jacket that sports a left sleeve that can be used to control your personal technology. It works on the principle that a textile can be structured a lot like a conductive touchscreen that you’d find in a smartphone, making certain areas of the jacket input locations.
Revealed at SXSW, the jacket prototype includes 15 conductive threads along with a tag that connects to your smartphone over wireless. It allows you to control your music, make and receive phone calls, and get navigation cues when in what they call “bike mode.”
They say it’s also customizable, allowing you to assign gestures to various functions based on your personal needs and Google’s suite of apps, like Google Maps and Google Play. They’re already making it available for developers to create apps. And yes, it’s washable. All you need to do is remove the electronic tag and the rest it totally safe in the wash. But who washes their denim, right?
Project Jacquard creator Ivan Poupyrev says that the jacket is just the beginning of computer technology that could be woven into - and hidden in - just about anything. “If you can hide, or weave interactivity and input devices into materials,” he said, “this will be the first step towards making computers invisibly integrated into objects, materials and clothing.”
This is no prototype that you’ll never see, either. The jacket will be available this year for a relatively reasonable $350.