Google wants to make swiping on your phone or tablet easier. If it’s successful, users may one day be able to move their fingers in the air or tap their shirt pocket to press buttons or scroll.
Next on Google’s list of sci-fi inventions made real is a crusade to turn regular furniture and clothing into smart objects. Clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss is the first company to partner with Google on making interactive “fabric touch panels” for its clothing.
The concept for this technology evolved in part from the extremely thin, conductive yarn that Google has been developing as part of what the company calls “Project Jacquard.” Jacquard envisions a future where everyday objects are seamlessly integrated with technology, enabling users to dismiss or place a call by brushing a hand near the pocket where it’s held.
Another goal is to be able to control a touch screen without actually touching it. By using a radar sensor that detects motion, the tiny radar sensor (approximately two centimeters) can detect movement up to five meters away (about 16 and a half feet). The conductive thread works similarly, with the fabric reacting to certain movements. Very small computer components are also being developed to respond to the sensors in the clothing. Eventually, Jacquard anticipates being able to limit these components to the size of a button.
In the MIT Technology Review, program leader Ivan Poupyrev described the project as follows: “We want to make interactive garments at scale so everyone can make them and everyone can buy them.”
There’s no official announcement yet on when wearable tech by Google might become available to regular customers.
Activity: If you had access to this interactive clothing right now, what would you want to do with it? Design a piece of clothing of furniture for your future self.
Jobs: Fashion designer, hardware development engineer