From Levi’s commuter jacket to YSL Cit-e backpack, Google’s Project Jacquard is back on the news. Here are the latest developments in the realm of tech-infused, connected fashion garments.
It all started back in 2015, with Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) as one of the pioneers and early explorers in the landscape of garments infused with technology.
Google’s first endeavour into the world of fashion started through a collaboration with the denim manufacturer Levis, under the name of Project Jacquard.
Two years later, Levi’s commuter jacket was launched. A connected jeans jacket with a touch-sensitive material, woven on the sleeve and operated like a giant flexible trackpad.
The tech-infused patch on the sleeve of the jacket worked like a remote to the wearer’s smartphone. By touching the fabric, the wearer was able to control music, maps, and other simple functions without taking the phones out of the pocket.
But right now, in 2019, following the success it had with Levi’s commuter jacket, Google is back with a new wave of fashion tech products:
The team’s latest releases are a new Android app that allows direct Google Assistant requests via natural gestures, and the YSL Cit-e backpack, a high-end rucksack designed in collaboration with Saint Lauren, a French luxury fashion house.
Looking at the bag from the outside, there’s nothing different that could tell you’re looking at Google’s latest generation of smart fashion products. The YSL Cit-e backpack looks identical with the classic YSL Cit backpack at 31cm wide, 41cm tall, and 22cm deep, in black colour only.
However, on the inside, some serious additions and features make the 2nd generation much smarter than the first fashion products launched by the team at Project Jacquard.
There are still tags and sensors embedded into the smart fabric. True, much smaller and faster this time. But what’s new is that finally, the 2nd generation introduces the radar-based Soli innovation. It is an experimental technology available only in the upcoming Pixel 4 phone.
To access the features, the $995 Saint Laurent YSL Cit-e backpack has a touch-and-tap-sensor located on the left strap. Looking forward, the team lead by Ivan Poupyrev, Director at Google’s Jacquard project, plans to expand beyond jackets and smart backpacks – as it is the collaboration with the French luxury house, Saint Laurent (former Yves Saint Lauren).
In charge of ATAP since 2014, Poupyrev feels that the YSL Cit-e backpack collaboration is a sign of what’s possible at the real of tech with fashion, and points to the next wave of Jacquard products, stating that the company’s ambitions to achieve an ambient computing future are closer than ever.
Initially, Jacquard team looked at techniques to infuse textiles with wearables and smart sensors. Now, on its second stage, the group seeks ways of using radar to allow natural gestures to interact with intelligent sensors without needing cameras.
“Expect some surprising things driven by this technology. There’s much more stuff coming from us soon, ” said Poupyrev.
The idea is to have a wide range of module that innovative fashion designers can choose from when creating new fashion apparel.
Most likely, the latest Jacquard 2.0 smart hardware is going to be present in more than the smart YSL Cit-e backpack. We expect to see it in all types of shoes – smart shoes are already in fashion right now – bags, hats, and jackets, allowing the wearer to interact with Google software and AI in an instance.
Past Jacquard generation of garments allowed only four gestures on the smart clothing patch: ‘brush in’ as in stroking in one direction, ‘brush out’ as swiping in the other direction, ‘double-tapping’ and ‘cover’ mode to cancel an action.
However, this year’s version has new commands. A remote selfie camera, a haptic countdown timer, and a ‘today’ function which plays back your Google Assistant daily report of news, weather and other customisable highlights.
But according to Poupyrev, the future of Project Jacquard is to combine natural gestures with Google’s AI Assistant.
“Non-verbal cues of interaction between people can be from 50-90% of everything being communicated. Blending these non-verbal cues into natural conversation with smart technology is a huge opportunity and challenge at the same time,” added Poupyrev.
Finally, when asked about sustainability, Poupyrev explained that Jacquard is very much looking forward to introducing solutions for sustainable clothing care.
“Brands talk about sustainability and sustainable practices. How to care about garments, to wash them less, use lesser water. Yes, these are things we’re thinking about, too.”