Google’s debut of Project Jacquard elevates the realm of smart clothing to heights yet unseen. Instead of a mere band or accessory, the project targets wearable technology on the most micro of levels: the actual threads in clothes.
The yarn is a multi-fibered conductive braid that comes in a variety of covers and can be woven together to behave not unlike the touchscreen on your smartphone. The point here seems to be that our inevitable hurtling towards technological integration should be easy and seamless (no pun intended) like getting dressed already is, as opposed to bulky and extraneous, like some wearable gadget critics (not wrongfully) ascertain.
Swipe a panel on your jacket, and dim the lights in your house. Tap your thigh, skip the song on your phone’s music player.
But how practical and ultimately useful is this technology? Although Google has already announced its first partnership with Levi Strauss, project founder Ivan Poupyrev admits in an interview with Wired that the real issue at hand is figuring out what people want. “It is not a technology problem,” Poupyrev says. “Adding a full wearable LCD thing on your wrist, that’s easy. It’s really a design problem. Design, and cultural understanding.”
Furthermore, the revolutionary aspect of the technology lies in the fact that its simple thread design fits into existing looms, which means manufacturing in bulk worldwide is cheap and simple.
Poupyrev is quick to reiterate that the ultimate goal of Project Jacquard does not lie in making clothes. “You need to provide your solution to hundreds of brands at some point,” he says. “I don’t want to become a textile mogul. I don’t want to own factories everywhere. There are enough factories already. We just want to use those capacities right there.”
So what might the future hold for this technology? If we imagine it in developing countries, perhaps it could provide health monitoring to nearby doctors for the pregnant or sick. If we apply it to household furniture, we may be able to control our homes simply by tapping the armrest of the couch, all while sitting down.
We eagerly await the fruits of the Google-Levi collaboration as well as any future plans the project has in store for us.