Touch-sensitive fabric just took one big step into reality.
Providing an update to the technology Levi’s and Google ATAP first discussed last year, the development team behind Project Jacquard took the stage once again at the 2016 Fashion Technology Forum in Brooklyn Thursday to give a first look at how the jacket performs.
Modeled by Levi’s Product Innovation VP Paul Dillinger, the Project Jacquard jacket was designed for the “urban commuter” who rides their bike to work, with details like an extension back to allow for maximum range of motion, and subtle reflectors for biking at night.
But the real innovation in the jacket is the woven tactile interface, seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the jacket cuff. Utilizing a “smart tag” which plugs into a small USB port on the cuff, the jacket is able to connect to a user’s smartphone to access apps and perform other functions.
One such function is navigation, which integrates with GPS to allow for turn-by-turn direction without looking at one’s phone. Instead, riders can ask questions like “left or right?” and receive a voice response, allowing for active engagement with the road.
The jacket also integrates with messaging apps to allow wearers to send text messages by voice, while vibration on the cuffs and a color-coded light alert the user when someone is calling and who it is. A whitelist feature can also block and filter incoming communications.
Dillinger emphasized that the technology is “not fragile or precious,” and the jacket is entirely machine washable. According to Ivan Poupyrev, Google ATAP technical program lead designer, the Project Jacquard team had to consult with Levi’s team in Japan to design a whole new weaving technique for the jacket.
Dillinger described the union of Levi’s and Google ATAP as a “marriage,” explaining that the Project Jacquard team operates as “one company.”
“The fashion apparel world works different from the tech world, so it’s important to bring them together,” he said. “It’s important to understand how tech and apparel work together. When tech people design things, they often put tech first, [but] the jacket cannot look bad.”
With the jacket set to launch in Spring 2017 and a beta opening this fall, Dillinger said key to getting the jacket right was a long test period, something born of the unique marriage of fashion and tech.
“In fashion we launch the perfect product, in tech we beta test, and bring something less than perfect to market to improve it,” he said. “So they’re two totally different approaches. It requires a lot longer than six months to cultivate “