Google IO is an event held each year where developers discuss what’s coming next in the world of tech, mobile and beyond.
The announcement of Project Jacquard, a brainchild of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division, is a big leap towards realizing the full potential of smart connected clothing. Project Jacquard involves technology with the capability to transform clothes, furniture and any other textile into a touchscreen and gesture-sensitive controller.
The material used, coined “Jacquard Yarn” is a conductive yarn created in collaboration with Google and their industry partners. Jacquard Yarn is indistinguishable from regular yarns, and is durable enough to be woven on any industrial loom. The conductive yarn is made from a combination of ultra-thin metallic alloys and synthetic materials such as polyester or cotton.
Jacquard Yarn isn’t just strong, it’s also versatile as it can be woven with pretty much any material. Fashion and fabric designers will have no boundaries, if they want to use it with silk, wool, linen or whatever else it won’t be a problem. By using special weaving techniques, the conductive yarn is hidden inside the synthetic material so it cannot be seen.
A substantial effort is ongoing to fine-tune the technology; how much it can stretch and bend, testing with different materials, what’s the optimal thickness, washing techniques, etc.
Different textiles and designs won’t only call for a variety of materials, but also touch-enabled interfaces of different sizes and characteristics. Using Google’s conductive yarn, custom touch and gesture-enabled areas can be woven into the textile at exact locations.
Using conductive yarns, bespoke touch and gesture-sensitive areas can be woven at precise locations, anywhere on the textile. Also, large interactive areas can be made by weaving sensor grids throughout the textile.
In terms of what you could control with the smart fabric, it really boils down to the imagination! It would surely include music playlists, smart TV’s, dimming the lights, air con and an array of other media, smart home and IoT connected devices.
We’re not too sure when Google’s touch-enabled fabric will be ready to start shipping to manufacturers, but we’ll keep you updated.