Smart clothes: Google’s shift into the fashion world

4 Jun 2015

Google is diving into the world of fashion, weaving programmable yarn into your smart clothes to help you connect with your smartphone in yet another useless way. But it’s ok, designers are involved, so coders won’t determine style.

Charged with the task of marrying our clothing with our devices, Google’s Project Jacquard is only a concept at the moment, however judging from its video the team have already worked out some pretty cool things.

Conductive threads are basically incorporated into the manufacturing process of the clothing, creating panels on, for example, the sleeve of a jacket.

When linked with your smartphone, you can rub your finger along the sleeve to scroll up and down on your Facebook feed.

“We’re trying to shrink down all the components to the size of a button and ultimately this will be something that’s so small we can embed them into the manufacturing process,” said lead researcher Nan-Wei Gong.

It’s a weird concept, but does seem like a natural progression of society’s thirst for all things interactive.

“The structure of textiles is the same as the structure of touchscreens that we use every day on mobile devices and tablets,” says Ivan Poupyrev.

“That means that if you replace some of the threads in textiles with conductive threads, you should be able to weave a textile which can recognise a variety of simple touch gestures.”

At this early stage, it’s nowhere near the interactive standards set by Back to the Future, with automatic Velcro-ing shoes only outdone by a self-drying coat.

But with Google behind it, I guess it’s just a matter of time. Roll on the smart clothes!

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic