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The Next Wave of Wearable Tech Will Be Your Clothing

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(Google/Project Jacquard)

The next time someone tells you your outfit is looking smart, they may not just be complimenting your fashion sense. At its annual Google I/O conference, the company unveiled Project Jacquard, a connected fabric that can turn your entire wardrobe into wearable technology.

Coming out of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP), Jacquard is the result of years of efforts to develop wires that look, feel, and act like actual yarn, can withstand the heat from irons, and can survive thousands of trips through the washer and dryer.

Related: Google: Your Hands May Be the Only Interface You’ll Ever Need

“The structure of textiles is the same as the structure of the touchscreens built into phones and other mobile devices,” says Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead for Google ATAP. “If you replace some of the threads in textiles with conductive threads, you should be able to weave the textile into something that can recognize a variety of simple touch gestures.”

(Project Jacquard/YouTube)

At the show, Google displayed swaths of cloth that responded to touch and other gestures.

By using smart thread, touch-sensitive areas can be woven into clothing. You could control the volume on your music player by swiping your finger on your pant leg, or answer your phone by touching your lapel.

Related: Google Improves the World’s Cheapest Virtual Reality Headset

But this is not just another wacky Google moon shot project that will never emerge from the lab. Today Levi Strauss announced it would be the first clothing manufacturer to integrate textiles developed via Project Jacquard into future lines of apparel. However, the companies did not announce a timetable for when such smart clothing would appear or what form it would take.

One thing that is clear: When it comes to smart clothing, Google hopes to loom large. 

Send email to Dan Tynan here or follow him on Twitter.

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