It’s been a year since Google first announced its partnership with Levi’s, but only now are the fruits of their collaboration starting to materialize.
As part of this year’s I/O conference, the companies unveiled the first piece of connected clothing powered with Jacquard by Google technology: a Levi’s trucker jacket made specifically for commuting bikers. Woven into one of the sleeves is a patch of conductive fibers—so subtle you can barely tell it’s there—that lets you tap or swipe across its surface and toggle a series of customizable commands, from silencing calls to querying Google Maps for directions.
The tech components are twofold. The metal-based conductive fibers are fully washable and sewed into the denim, and a button-sized piece of removable hardware called the “smart tag” allows the jacket to connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Gesture controls and specific functions can be customized with the help of a companion app, but there's no word yet as to whether that app will be immediately available for non-Android users.
Among the tasks the jacket can perform: offering up suggestions for nearby coffee shops (or other types of venues), providing an ETA to your destination, and changing tracks on your playlist. All of the info is conveyed by audio, so you're not distracted by screens. By next spring, Google will release further details on battery specs and whether smart tags can be interchanged between garments; those logistics and the jacket's price are still in the works.
Though Levi’s is Google’s first Jacquard partner, the platform will ultimately be open to third party designers and app developers—just like Google’s smartwatch line, Android Wear. The conductive fibers that power Jacquard are compatible with any commercial loom, which means that any designer of textile-based products will easily be able to incorporate the technology into their wares. In other words: clothing is just the beginning, and furniture may well be up next.
The Commuter Trucker jacket will be available as part of Levi’s Spring 2017 collection in stores and online. It’s the next generation of a mainstay model that’s been around since the early 2000s.