Wearable technology has taken a lot of twists and turns. The Internet of Things has been trying to find a place on the human body for awhile now. Perhaps the best known attempt was Google Glass. The futuristic glasses allowed users to interact in new ways with the world around them, but mostly made them look obnoxious. Today the fitness world dominates wearable tech, with FitBits, Garmins and Apple Watches on many Americans’ wrists.
But it’s possible Google has learned the lessons of the broad reaching Google Glass. Now the tech giant is trying something new in wearables; small, niche designs made for specific populations. In the case of the Jacquard, the target population is bike commuters, and Google is partnering with one of America’s best known clothing brands, Levi’s.
In WIRED, David Pierce does a long review of the Jacquard as attached to the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket. He writes:
The jacket looks like most jean jackets, except for a small device on the left cuff. It’s intended to look like a strap, but it’s more reminiscent of a security tag someone forgot to remove. The black tag contains a wireless radio, a battery, and a processor, but the most important tech in the Jacquard Jacket remains invisible. A section of the left cuff is woven with the special yarn, created by Ivan Poupyrev and a team of Google scientists, that turns the bottom of your arm into a touchscreen.
When I first put on the jacket and snapped the detachable tag into place, it quickly paired to my iPhone through a dedicated Jacquard app. After a few seconds of setup, the app asked me to define a few gestures: What happens when you tap twice on the conductive yarn? What if you brush away from yourself, or toward yourself? What should it mean when the light on the tag illuminates?
I set mine to get me home. A double-tap on my left arm now sends a ping to Google Maps and delivers the next turn on my navigation, either through the speaker on my phone or whatever headphones I’m wearing. (All the Jacquard Jacket’s connectivity comes through your phone.) If I swipe away, it reads out my ETA. The small motor in my jacket sleeve buzzes and the light comes on when I get a text or phone call.
Right now, the Jacquard Jacket doesn’t do much more than that. You can change tracks in your music with a swipe, or to count things like the miles you ride or the birds you see on your way home. The jacket was designed with bike commuters in mind, and the functionality follows suit. “This jacket doesn’t need to do everything,” says Paul Dillinger, Levi’s VP of Innovation. Neither he nor Levi’s care about “wearables.” Instead, Dillinger wants to make this the perfect jacket for bicyclists: There’s a longer, butt-crack covering back; storm cuffs that keep out the whipping wind; and the connected gestures that make it easier and safer to change your music or get directions on the road.
Read more here.