Google is a company synonymous with innovation and technology. But their most recent announcement has set the internet abuzz with critical chatter. Last week, the technology giant announced that it was in the process of developing clothing with touch-screen technologies built into the fabric.
Working with US denim company Levi Strauss, Google’s ‘Project Jacquard’ was spruiked by the company’s top brass at a recent developer’s conference in San Francisco. The project is being run under the auspices of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP), and not the now-notorious Google (x) labs.
“We are enabling interactive textiles,” Google ATAP representative Emre Karagozler told guests at the conference. “We do it by weaving conductive threads into fabric.”
The fabric is super-conductive and safe, a genuine step-forward in the race towards ‘smart fabrics’. “It is stretchable; it is washable,” Mr. Karagozler told Agence France-Presse. “It is just like normal fabric.” Except that it clearly goes beyond the realm of ‘normal’.
A highly advanced yarn, made up of many tiny circuits, utilises a complex algorithm in order to allow the wearer to control software that has been connected to the wearer. Data can be sent from any fabric-covered surface, from everyday clothes to table cloths and curtains. Developers predict that users will soon be able to message and place phone calls from any surface within the modern home. But are consumers really impressed with such a novelty product?
Levi Strauss’ head of global product innovation, Paul Dillinger, told AFP that the technology was indeed necessary in today’s technologically turned-on world.
“In our hyper-digital world, people constantly struggle to be physically present in their environment while maintaining a digital connection,” he said. “The work that Google and Levi’s are embarking upon with Project Jacquard delivers an entirely new value to consumers with apparel that is emotional, aspirational and functional.”
Given Google’s hit-and-miss development history (consider the Google Glass flop), we think the jury may still be out on ‘smart fabrics’.
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