The inconspicuously styled Levi’s Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket hides an amazing technology in its woven yarn. In fact, the weave pattern of the denim jacket appears to have a minor breakdown in its otherwise perfect texture around the cuff of the jacket sleeve.
The futuristic jacket was unveiled at the Google I/O 2016. Produced under the Project Jacquard, the collaborative venture of Levi Strauss & Co and Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Products) division, the wearable is a wonderful marriage of technology and fashion.
When the collaborative venture between the two companies was announced, it was being speculated that Google will come up with the technology for a pair of smart denim pants. The jacket unveiled at the I/O platform has been designed to meet the needs of the urban commuter cyclists.
The Underlying Technology
The left cuff of the jacket sleeve includes a varying pattern fabricated from a special conductive yarn that allows the user to use it as a touch platform. The interactive touch panel will allow the users to navigate their way across the Google Maps via voice, answer or reject calls, and switch to a new music track by simple tapping and swiping gestures. Thus, the urban commuters would be able to forgo the hassle of pulling out their phone to do the job.
The jacket has a partially wrapped black strap across the left cuff of the sleeve. The strap houses the necessary circuitry to ensure that the wearable does not lose connectivity on the go.
Although Levi’s was not completely sold on the idea of the wearable tech incorporated in denim, it was the specific case of the urban cyclist commuters that sparked their interest in the technology. Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi’s detailed the ideation process behind the jacket:
“Once we got our heads around the fact this had amazing potential for the guy and girl we’re already talking to who loves their Levi’s, loves riding their bike, and can really use this help, then the ideation process around the function became quite natural and fluid.”
The interface has been designed so that it can be customized by the user to associate their gestures to a specific function.
The manufacturers have released an app which can be used to configure the gestures and other functionality of the interface. The technology is compatible with Spotify and Strava.
The Invisible Interface
Both Google and Levi’s sought to retain the actual fashion and style of the wearable without compromising on the technology. Therefore, the aim of the Project Jacquard was to ensure that the styling and look of the garment were not undermined by the technology it was imbued with.
It proved to be a significant constraint in the design and prototyping of the wearable jacket. While the tech buffs wanted to show off the functionality of the jacket by making it prominent, the designers from Levi’s wanted to retain the subtlety in style and a good overall look.
Being a fashion staple, there was no room for a cord coming out of the jacket, so the smart tag that rolls around the cuff is fitted with a USB port which can be used to charge it.
The snap button on the top houses a haptic motor to notify the user via vibration. The LED on the top also helps the users to use the wearable as they travel. Another challenge faced by the designers was to make the wearable compatible for daily use. The designers not only wanted it to look and feel like an ordinary Levi’s jacket but also wanted the users to treat it the same way as they would treat all other denim jackets, including throwing it into the washing machine.
The amazing jacket has been designed so that you can throw it into the washing machine, minus the smart tag, and it would continue to function like before.
Now new plants have been installed for manufacturing this jacket. In fact, the jacket is in production at the existing Levi’s facilities. The conductive yarn for the interface is used to weave the jacket just like any other Levi’s denim.
By Fall 2016, Levi’s Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket will go into beta testing. The wearable for both men and women will be available for purchase in spring 2017 in the US cities, followed by the release in the European and Asian markets.
The technology will be made available to the developers in 2017, which will open new doors for them to develop and exploit the features of the wearable denim jacket. Meanwhile, Levi’s aims to broaden its existing portfolio of the products on Jacquard platform.
Google is also on the lookout for new partners as well as other apparel including athletics, formal workplace clothing, and the luxury ensembles.
Watch the video detailing the working of the jacket: