Google's Project Jacquard - Make Your Clothes The UI
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 31 May 2015

There has been a buzz about wearables for a while now, but Google joining the club is probably an indication that it is hotter than you might think.

Wearables, that is computers built into clothes, have a slightly crazy feel - but we all want a smart watch, right? What is a smart watch but a sort of wearable? Then there was Google Glass - surely that exciting project was a wearable? Now Google wants to create fabrics that include conductive threads that make it possible to weave touch sensitive patches into clothes.

If the idea of your t-shirt or jeans being a touch pad strikes you as something destined to be a social disaster, I think I would agree. There could be nothing sillier and worrying than lots of people apparently touching themselves in ways that look like they belong to a secret society. But then who would have predicted that most of the population on the streets would be walking around almost blind to where they are going with their eyes and ears glued to a smart phone? Perhaps it is just a matter of getting things right and waiting for people to get used to the strange behavior. 

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Project Jacquard, presumably named after the 18th century punch card controlled Jacquard loom, is the product of more out-of-the-box thinking by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team - the people who brought you the Ara modular phone and the Tango depth camera tablet.

The idea is simple enough - use conductive thread to create gesture-recognizing input patches on clothes. There is also the small matter of the electronics that has to connect to the input patches and  so far there isn't any information on what Google plans on using. All of the hardware seen so far is still just "hardware".

If you really want to put printed circuit boards in your pocket this is fine, but my guess is that for comfort you are going to need to design soft electronics to go with the input patches. It seems that the electronic will simply relay the UI signals to an Android phone which will do all the computation needed. 

Take a look at the promo video:

 

After watching it I'm even more convinced that the idea is silly. There are a few niche uses of wearables that are good ideas. Shirts that monitor your heart and other vital signs are obviously a good idea. So are clothes that monitor what you eat, how much exercise you get and so on. At the other end of the scale of seriousness, I can see that flashy - literally - clothing that has LEDs and fluorescent strips might be good for party time. But I am not convinced that having to rub the leg of your jeans to set the volume of a media player is a desirable use of technology. 

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What do you think?

Project Jacquard is asking for your email address if you want to know more about it. 

More Information

Project Jacquard

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