Google unveils smart fabric

Google is developing smart fabrics that could make any clothes smart, turning trousers into touchpads and jackets into joysticks. The smart thread developed by the firm can be woven into existing clothing. Button sized computers will then allow it to communicate with a mobile phone and other devices.

‘If you can weave interactivity and input methods into the fabric, that’s the first step towards a wearable computer,’ said Ivan Poupyrev, who is leading the project, known as Project Jacquard

Google’s yard is conductive, and can be used to create a touchscreen surface on a pair of jeans, for instance, allowing users to control their phones my swiping their hand across the fabric. It looks and feels like normal fabric – its just conductive,’ said Shiho Fukuhara, the project’s textile development and partnership lead.

‘We are working with designers all over the world. ‘It can be visible and obvious, or totally invisible.’ The Jacquard yarn structures combine thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk, making the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom.

Developers will be able to connect existing apps and services to Jacquard-enabled clothes and create new features specifically for the platform. At Google’s I/O developer conference, Levi’s announced that it is partnering with Google on the project. ‘If there’s a chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitiate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world while maintaining eye contact with the person we’re eating dinner with, this is a real value,’ said Paul Dillinger of Levi Strauss.