Good Thinking

Project Jacquard hands-on: Google's crazy/brilliant idea to make touchscreen clothing

Project Jacquard hands-on: Goo...
Touching the future? Google ATAP's Project Jacquard wants to turn textiles into touchscreens
Touching the future? Google ATAP's Project Jacquard wants to turn textiles into touchscreens
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We're welcomed to Google's Project Jacquard demo at Google I/O 2015
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We're welcomed to Google's Project Jacquard demo at Google I/O 2015
Controlling Philips Hue lights with fabric that could be woven into clothing: things that make you go "hmmm"
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Controlling Philips Hue lights with fabric that could be woven into clothing: things that make you go "hmmm"
Live pressure feedback showed that the yarn's touch-sensitivity was quite good
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Live pressure feedback showed that the yarn's touch-sensitivity was quite good
Touch-sensitive portions can either stand out (as it does here) or be woven practically invisibly into the clothing as a whole
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Touch-sensitive portions can either stand out (as it does here) or be woven practically invisibly into the clothing as a whole
Touching the future?
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Touching the future?
Touching the future? Google ATAP's Project Jacquard wants to turn textiles into touchscreens
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Touching the future? Google ATAP's Project Jacquard wants to turn textiles into touchscreens
When we say "touchscreen" we really mean touch-sensitive, as your clothes won't have screens anytime soon
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When we say "touchscreen" we really mean touch-sensitive, as your clothes won't have screens anytime soon
Familiar gestures like swipes and taps, now on your jeans
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Familiar gestures like swipes and taps, now on your jeans
Another placard from Google's hands-on area
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Another placard from Google's hands-on area
Google's visual showing Project Jacquard yarns
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Google's visual showing Project Jacquard yarns

This year's Google I/O gave us Android M and updated Google Cardboard, along with free and unlimited photo storage. But it wouldn't be Google if there weren't also some moonshots in there. We go hands-on with one of them, Project Jacquard.

Project Jacquard is the latest wacky yet perhaps world-changing innovation from Google's ATAP lab. The idea is simple: weave conductive yarns into textiles, that can make your clothes act like touchscreens.

Jacquard's touch-sensitive yarns use thin, metallic alloys combined with standard yarn from materials like cotton or silk – making smart yarn that's both touch-sensitive and strong enough to be woven into practically any piece of clothing.

Google's visual showing Project Jacquard yarns
Google's visual showing Project Jacquard yarns

Jacquard yarns can either have prominent stitching – isolated patterns that make it clear to the wearer which part of their shirt doubles as a controller – or woven seamlessly (basically invisibly) into the textile as a whole. And Google's goal is for the rest of the tech (Bluetooth radios and whatnot, so your pants can connect to your smartphone) to be as small as a button.

What's the point, you ask? Well, one possible use is the home of the future. As connected home devices take off over the next decade (something Google is also working on), we'll want quick, easy-access methods of controlling them. Wearable gadgets like smartwatches are one way to do that, but the clothes we're already wearing are another.

One example Google showed us at I/O was using touch-sensitive fabric to control Philips' Hue lights. In our Google I/O demo, a quick tap of the clothing turned the lights on and off, a swipe to the right scrolled through different color settings and swipes up and down changed the brightness.

When woven into something like a shirt sleeve or jeans leg, this could make for the easiest way possible to tweak your lighting – no matter what else you're busy with.

Touching the future?
Touching the future?

In our demo, the fabric responded to touch just like a smartphone or laptop trackpad would. Nothing felt odd about the touch-sensitive portions, and live feedback on a monitor showed that it was detecting a wide array of pressure levels (it felt much more sensitive than many laptop touchpads we've used).

Right now Project Jacquard is a blank canvas for designers and developers. While uses like controlling your Hue lights may make for an immediate "a-ha!" moment, there's a world of possibility that's only going to be limited by designers' and software developers' imaginations.

Controlling Philips Hue lights with fabric that could be woven into clothing: things that make you go "hmmm"
Controlling Philips Hue lights with fabric that could be woven into clothing: things that make you go "hmmm"

At the very least, Project Jacquard is going to make for some of the strangest collaborations the tech world has ever seen. Together at last: Philips and Hanes, or Nest and Levi's? These are the wacky melting-pot ideas that can catch us all off-guard and – maybe, just maybe – change how we interact with the world.

You can find out more about Project Jacquard in the video below.

Project page: Google

Welcome to Project Jacquard

3 comments
RehRek
Hmm, I can't say that I am real excited about this technology... I am failing to come up with practical applications for clothing that is touch aware and can control devices or other things. Honestly, I would be more excited about a button on my lapel that I could touch and call someone... star trek style. I never liked the Bluetooth ear buds. What problems is this going to solve? It seems like a cool thing that's searching for a problem... like a laser was. But a laser was cooler even before it had an application. The problems I see is that this tech will have large potential for failure since it is metal and can break connections, and what about going through metal detectors... you're most likley purchasers will be those who frequent airports and if they are setting off alarms they will not be keen to wear this kind of thing. I can hear it now, Please remove your shoes, watches, and any other metal you may be carrying... including cloths that are touch enabled.
Xienwolf
@RehRek: You are joking, right? This is exactly what you need to answer your phone with a tough to your lapel. No button required, you just program the interface to accept a touch to the lapel, or absolutely anywhere else you want, to answer a call. Heck, touch left lapel to call Mom, right Lapel to call Boss, elbow to call your dog, both elbows at the same time to call your psychiatrist. You program in what touches where do what task. As for the metal detector comment, you apparently don't understand how those things work. They wouldn't see this, no more than they see your zippers. And the potential for failure is the same as any clothing, it can tear. This isn't meant for children or other people who have lifestyles rough on their clothing. If anyone designs touch enabled clothing for such people, they would have to plan around tears with redundancy in threads, and short runs till processing. Then when you DO break the clothing, you only lose a limited segment of your touch capability.
RESISTANCE
Pretty sweet. It is just like the CPS suit in the sci-fi series Continuum. Combine it with some carbon nano tubes and a nano computer and it will be a wearable PC. The suit in the series: * enables enhanced strength * is bullet- and fire-proof * has complete invisibility and color-changing camouflage * has electric charge generation that can work as a close-contact taser incapacitating a person * is capable of emitting a magnetic field that can deflect bullets in a larger area * has advanced computer processing capabilities with built-in screens for data and function access in the wrists and front thighs (copied from Wikipedia)