Your Next Pair of Jeans Will Be a Giant Touch Screen, if Google Has Its Way
Why would you pay hundreds of dollars to control your phone from an Apple Watch if you could just use the sleeve of your jacket — an item you were already wearing?
A Google program called Project Jacquard has developed a special yarn that can turn a piece of fabric into a touch screen for a phone or tablet when it's weaved into a grid.
The fabric they've developed is a special mix of thin metals with synthetic fibers like polyester and silk.
Once the yarn is threaded through the fabric, it hooks up to a tiny connector about the size of a button that can be hidden away inside the garment.
The fabric becomes touch-sensitive, and can be used not just to control a touch screen but also to measure gestures, like when you're lifting your arm or waving your hand.
Why would anyone want to wear it? Wearables aren't traditionally fashionable — but this fabric will exist on the clothes we already own. To start, Google is partnering with Levi's to put these sensors in some denim products for the Levi's fall 2016 collection, according to Women's Wear Daily.
But landing an iconic fashion partner isn't always a winning play. When Google was desperately vying for people to wear Google Glass, they locked in Diane von Fürstenberg as an advocate and design partner. No matter: Google Glass is largely considered a dead project now. It was just too inconvenient, too expensive and too lackluster.
OMsignal is a company that makes undershirts with special biometric cloth. Instead of trying to track breathing and heart rate from sensors on your wrist, its cloth — which the company has been supplying for Ralph Lauren — measures your heart on your torso with a full EKG and measures breathing by sensing how far your diaphragm is expanding and contracting.
You don't just get better information from wearables, OMsignal's Sean O'Leary told Mic. You get a product consumers are already inclined to want.
"For consumers to adopt things, it has to be easy," O'Leary said. "We all wear clothing, so if the sensors come on naturally when you put on a shirt, you'll see faster adoption."
In the Verge's review of the Apple Watch, Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel laid out his "simply formula" for a Law of Wearable Success:
In order to be successful, any given piece of wearable technology has to be useful the entire time it's on your body. Prescription glasses sit on your face, but improve your vision all the time, so they're successful. Sunglasses sit on your face and make you look cooler all the time, so they're successful. Google Glass sits on your face, but mostly does nothing, so it's a failure.
By making it so that we don't have to add one more device into our ever-expanding arsenal of gadgets, Project Jacquard could develop something that, unlike Google Glass, people would actually wear — if only because we were going to throw it on anyway.