Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, referred to as ATAP, is working with fabric that is able to sense touch.
Using a new form of conductive yarn as well as woven multi-touch panels, they are able to turn normal clothes into devices that are interactive.
While wearing the clothing that is made from the special fabric, the wearer can swipe his or her hand over the sleeve of her jacket or side of a pair of pants to silence a smartphone. A finger tap will start a song playing.
Called by the name Project Jacquard, Google officially announced it at the annual developer conference Friday.
Levi’s is the first clothing partner of Google and the two companies from the Bay Area will begin designing then experimenting with the smart clothing.
There was no timeline announced by Google or Levi’s for when the smart clothes might be available commercially, though Levi’s head of global product innovation, Paul Dillinger, said this process would be fast, fun and iterative.
There have been other attempts by companies to make a conductive fabric, but Google is looking at this on a global scale.
In the clothing industry, there are over 19 billion garments produced annually, 150-times that of mobile phones.
To move further than it being just a novelty requires the yarn to seamlessly work on the existing looms at that industrial level.
ATAP has worked with experts in textiles in Japan to create a yarn that is conductive and can withstand the brutal weaving process on an industrial loom and continue to look good enough afterwards to make real clothes.
Levi’s said its smart clothing would help people to interact more with the world around them and not just look constantly at their phones.
A Google representative during the unveiling wore what seemed to be a beige jacket made by London tailors. However, the fabric in that jacket was 85% cotton with 15% Project Jacquard.
However, when he waved his hand above his arm and a display nearby showed the information being picked up on the electronics.