Touch-sensitive clothing has been one of the promised inventions coming in ‘just a few years’ for a while now. But with a partnership between Google and Levi’s promising to make an actual tangible product within the year, things are getting real.
The project falls within the domain of ATAP, Google’s skunk-works special projects division, and is codenamed Project Jacquard. The idea is pretty simple: Levi’s will design a denim jacket, and Google will build a touch-sensitive area into the cuff.
By messing with the area on the cuff, you’ll be able to answer or reject phone calls, change your music, stuff like that. There’s an API coming out for third-party apps, so the Ubers and Facebooks of the world will most likely be getting in on the fun.
The touch-sensitive panel is woven directly into the fabric of the jacket, and Levi’s says it is as tough as the rest of the material — most importantly, it’s even washable.
The guts of the processor and Bluetooth connector are built into a removable band, which you have to take off before throwing in the laundry. That same band houses LEDs, which help with the notifications.
All in all, it looks like a slick way to deal with basic phone functions, without having to pull your handset out of your pocket. It reminds me a lot of the Pebble smartwatch, which has limited functionality but can be used without even looking, thanks to the physical buttons.
The Jacquard jacket is being released as a “beta” (because all tests are now betas) this fall, with a full release expected in spring of next year.