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Project Jacquard: ATAP's touch-sensitive fabric is coming to a Levi's jacket

Project Jacquard: ATAP's touch-sensitive fabric is coming to a Levi's jacket

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"These fledgling ideas become prototypes, and prototypes become products." That's how Dan Kaufman, the new head of ATAP, describes the mission of his division. You might know it better as the division that makes the craziest technology coming out of Google right now. After describing how both Project Tango and Project Abacus went from crazy idea to real shipping products, he gave the stage to Ivan Poupyrev, the head of Projects Jacquard and Soli.

And now, Jacquard, the touch-sensitive fabric technology is getting more real. ATAP had already partnered with Levi's to create clothing with the technology. But, Poupyrev says, "we are not making smart pants." Instead, it's the "Levi's commuter trucker jacket." You can touch the sleeve of your jacket while you're, say, biking, to control your phone. You can answer a phone call or block a phone call, and do a bit more, too. It will work with Spotify, Google Maps, Strava, and Google will release some APIs so other developers can use it. The touch-sensitive area is on the cuff, and in the on-stage demo it worked really well.

It comes out Spring 2017, with a beta test this fall.

Levi's says this is not "precious" technology. They want you to use it, to beat on it, to get it dirty. Then, you can throw it in the washing machine. Poupyrev says that this is a platform. You connect it over Bluetooth. The touch zone is visible with some threads, but it's not some big ugly wires. The area is "thin and flexible" There are some chips, though, they fit in the button loop on the sleeve — you just remove that part when you want to wash the jacket. The weave is durable enough to handle regular use. "We don't have to treat a Jacquard jacket differently from any other jacket," he says.

Project Jacquard Levi's trucker jacket


Levi's is making the jacket itself, using its own supply chain. It uses the same processes that Levi's already uses for its non-techy jackets to weave the Jacquard sensors into the Levi's jacket. "