Programmatic Lunch

Google and Levi’s reveal their connected jacket at SXSW

Tim Maytom

At last year’s Google I/O developer conference, the search giant announced an partnership with an unusual company for a tech firm – Levi Strauss. The denim icon was working with Google's ATAP team on Project Jacquard, which would see Google technology integrated into clothing. Now, the first design has been unveiled to the public at the South by Southwest interactive media and culture festival in Austin, Texas.

The technology sees sensors woven directly into the fabric of a Levi’s Commuter denim jacket, which can then have a Bluetooth tag attached to connect it to a smartphone or other device. Wearers can check the time, receive turn-by-turn directions and control music, all by making haptic gestures on the cuff of the jacket. When it comes time to wash the jacket, owners can simple remove the tag and treat it like any other garment.

“Anyone on a bike knows that navigating your screen while navigating busy city streets isn’t easy – or a particularly good idea,” said Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation for Levi Strauss & Co. “This jacket helps to resolve that real-world challenge by becoming the co-pilot for your life on and off your bike.”

The jacket will be initially priced at $350 (£289) in a limited release this autumn that Google and Levi’s are calling a beta test for the technology. Among the advances made in order to produce the jacket are the creation of new conductive yarns, made from thin metallic alloys combined with natural and synthetic fabrics, which can be woven into any fabric using standard industrial looms. If the beta test proves successful, this could lead to a new generation of connected objects that enable owners to control their devices using clothing or even furniture.

Speaking at a Business of Fashion event last year, Dillinger described the approaching wave of connected clothing as “fashion’s fourth industrial revolution” and said that “Google was essential in helping us merge the gap between the denim industry and the digital world”.