Watches and similar gadgets have had a stronghold on the smartwear market for years now, but advancements in Google’s partnership with Levi’s mean the future of smart wear may in fact lie in smart clothing.
Google’s Project Jacquard presented a new smart jacket made in conjunction with the jean company at SXSW this year. The jacket’s left cuff has conductive fibers woven directly into it which allow wearers to use the cuff like a touch-screen that registers motion and commands and transmits them to your smartphone. A USB feature allows it to be plugged into and disconnected from the jacket.
The jacket promises to be an intuitive piece of clothing for bike riders, joggers and other exercisers looking to change a song or get Google Map directions. At $350, it’s a pricey piece of clothing, but the technology behind the cufflink is so innovative the price seems both reasonable and worth it.
Right now the jacket’s tech is limited. It can only accommodate three gestures, a swipe in, a swipe out and a double tap, and has a limited set of commands for your smartphone. The jacket has some other obvious limitations. Although you can wash it, the cuff cannot, so it has to be removed before you throw it in the dryer. The three commands it can accommodate will likely not grow significantly before it’s launched sometime in the fall. The limited capabilities have not grown significantly since the jacket was announced in 2015.
However, the jacket may serve as a forecast for what smartwear may look like in the future.
Google’s partnership with Levi’s demonstrates that technology companies won’t necessarily be going into the world of wearables alone. Unlike products like the Apple Watch, which were developed entire by the tech giants selling them, the Levi’s-Google partnership allows the two companies to produce a product that instinctively understands the needs of consumers both in terms of tech and clothing.
According to Arcs Technica, the Levi’s-Google partnership worked through crucial kinks to develop the jacket. Initially, Google presented the company with a yarn that would contain smart fibers which can transmit signal; in response, Levi’s pointed out that the tech would not survive one stage of the jacket making process in which excess cotton is burned off.
Google responded by searching for an alternative flame-resistant option. The collaboration suggests that similar kinks may be worked out as easily in the future of smart wear and offers potential wearers reassurance that the two companies effectively combined the needs of two separate products to create functional, wearable tech.
According to DigitalTrends, the current range of products in the field of smart wear, watches and wristbands, fail to offer the functionality, discreteness and ease expected of the field. Now that smart clothing that actually resembles clothing is on the table, smart wear can be much more easily incorporated into someone’s day to day life.
Samsung is currently developing smart business suits, shirts, belts and other wearables more easily incorporated into one’s day to day life than smart watches and bands. The Finnish company Clothing+ is attempting to develop smart clothing with functional medical applications, such as allowing you to create VR content, thereby bringing about the beginning of the transhumanism movement. And companies like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger have already begin to come out with smart clothing that’s hit the market.
Products that can charge your smartphone, accurately track your steps and tell you if your measurements are changing promise to give us a wealth of knowledge and freedom.
According to Digital Trends, smart underwear is going to be of particular importance and functionality as the technology develops. But it also suggests that smart clothing will begin moving away from health functions and workout routines and start works towards becoming more useful for people in day to day situations.
More smart wearables will begin hitting the market later this year, allowing consumers to run through the products and give effective feedback. For the meantime, it appears that Google and Levi’s have developed something that will be more easy to incorporate into day to day life than products like Apple Watch, which bode well for the future of smart wear.