We’ve been waiting for this news for a long, long time. “Smart garments” with incorporated sensors and wireless connections have enormous potential, but to date, they have almost exclusively been designed for fitness enthusiasts. The rare exceptions are specialized (and expensive) devices for medical applications. This is in spite of tons of research about smart textiles and conductive yarns and screen-printed electronics. Well, the wait is over; this all just got real.
We first mentioned “Project Jacquard” last year. This was a collaboration between Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group and Levi’s, the clothing manufacturer. Jacquard technology integrates electronics directly into the fabric. The result of the collaboration is now shipping: Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket. Initially available in a select few stores, it will be available online at www.levi.com starting on October 2. The jacket links wireless to your smartphone (select models of iOS or Android) and you can program your phone to respond to different gestures. Swipe or tap your left sleeve to trigger different actions, from answering an incoming call to selecting the music you want to hear. The jacket can signal you about different notifications using LED lights and discrete haptic vibrations.
The jacket is washable (once you remove a snap-on controller) and retails at $350. The big news is that this is just a bellwether. It demonstrates that conductive fabric can be used to provide an interactive interface for users, and can be produced on a commercial scale. This should open the door for a broad variety of adaptive and mobile devices designed for many applications, including healthcare.