By this time next year, you may be able to control music playback on your smartphone just by swiping down on your jacket sleeve. Next spring, Levi's plans to release a denim jacket with sensors woven into the fabric that gives you a convenient way to operate a paired device.
The Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket was developed with assistance from Google's Advanced Technologies and Products (ATAP) division, which has been working on ways to integrate into sensors into textiles. There's no word on how much the jacket will cost when it arrives in the spring of 2017.
The denim jacket uses conductive yarn woven into the garment's fabric to create a patch you can control just with a touch. There's also a detachable smart tag on the cuff of the jacket, which connects the embedded sensor to your phone. That rechargeable is flexible enough to curve around the jacket cuff.
During a demo of the Trucker Jacket at Google's I/O developers conference today (May 20), a member of the ATAP team controlled music playback by swiping down on the jacket's sleeve. Other swipes and taps can silence calls, summon up directions, and get an estimated time of arrival. A companion app for your phone will let you manage features and controls.
Google revealed plans to integrate fabric and sensors at last year's I/O as part of its Project Jacquard effort. In the year since that debut, ATAP technical program lead Ivan Poupyrev says that efforts have focused on developing new weaving techniques to better blend in sensors with the fabric so that the patch you use to control your phone looks like any other part of the jacket.
Project Jacquard has also concentrated on building a garment that can stand up to repeated trips through a washing machine. And once you remove that smart tag from the Trucker Jacket, it's ready to be cleaned. "This is technology you can wash," said Paul Dillinger, vice president of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co.
ATAP's Poupyrev says the Levi's jacket is just the start for Project Jacquard. You might also see athletic and business wear that incorporates the sensors in the near future.