Google has announced it is working with iconic US denim maker Levi Strauss to make apparel from specially woven fabric with touch-screen control capabilities. At the internet titan’s annual developers’ conference, it revealed a project in this regard, Project Jacquard, and named Levi Strauss as its first partner.
Named after a Frenchman who invented a type of loom, Project Jacquard is in the hands of a small Google team called advanced technology and projects (ATAP), which is different from the Google (x) lab, which develops big-vision innovations such as self-driving cars.
“We are enabling interactive textiles,” Emre Karagozler of ATAP said, as the smart fabric was revealed in an area set up to resemble cloth coming out of a loom. “We do it by weaving conductive threads into fabric.”
The special threads can be woven into a wide array of fabrics and be made to visually stand out or go unnoticed, depending on the design. Conductivity could be limited to desired parts of the fabric or spread across the entire cloth.
“It is stretchable; it is washable,” Karagozler said, as people controlled lights or computer screens with finger strokes on a blue cloth covering a table in the display area behind him. “It is just like normal fabric.”
Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms, according to Google. Anything involving fabric — from suits or dresses to furniture or carpet — could potentially have computer touch-pad style control capabilities woven into it.
Conductive yarn was connected to tiny circuits, no bigger than jacket buttons, with miniaturised electronics that could use algorithms to recognise touches or swipes, ATAP said. Data can be sent wirelessly to smartphones or other devices, enabling actions such as making phone calls or sending messages with brushes of fabric.