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Google and Levi’s team up on a “connected” jacket that lets you answer calls, use maps, and more

TechCrunch TechCrunch 20/05/2016 Sarah Perez

At Google’s I/O conference today, Google’s Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) research unit offered an update on its interactive textiles project announced last year, Project Jacquard. ATAP’s Ivan Poupyrev announced that the company was collaborating with iconic clothing company, Levi’s, to launch a connected jacket aimed at urban cyclists that will allow wearers to do things like control their music, answer phone calls, access navigation, and more, all by tapping and swiping on the jacket’s sleeve.

Google’s partnership with Levi’s was mentioned last year, but the two companies hadn’t yet disclosed how the clothing maker would implement Project Jacquard’s technology.

In case you missed it previously, this project involves weaving multi-touch sensors into clothes in order to make what you’re wearing the new…well…”wearable” computing device.

The idea with this new Levi’s Commuter jacket, explained the company, is to make something that’s both fashionable to wear while also representing a practical implementation of the technology.

Today, cyclists often have to fuss with their phone while commuting on busy streets, which is dangerous.

With Levi’s Commuter jacket, they’ll instead be able to just touch their jacket’s cuff instead, using gestures to control various functions they would otherwise need to pull out their phone to do.

The jacket will be a part of Levi’s Commuter collection of clothing, which is largely at urban dwellers who ride bikes to navigate their city.

A Jacquard tag is embedded in the jacket’s sleeve making this functionality possible, and it can be pulled out and charged via USB.

Plus, the company stressed, you can use the Levi’s jacket like any other article of clothing – wad it up, throw it in the wash, etc.

In addition to controlling native phone functions like calls, maps, and music, Google says the jackets will also interoperate with third party services. That means you’ll be able to use the touches to control your Spotify music, for example, or a connected fitness app. APIs will also be made available.

More importantly, the jacket isn’t some far off pipe dream, as it turns out – it will “launch” into beta testing this fall, and then become publicly available in spring 2017.

Google says it plans to work with other apparel makers in the future, including athletic clothing companies and those who design business wear to expand Jacquard’s reach.

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