The next wave of wearable technology comes in the form of a classic – the denim jacket – thanks to a collaboration between Google’s Advance Technology and Products (ATAP) team and Levi Strauss & Co. At quick glance, nothing seems out of the ordinary with Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket. The dark navy jean jacket has functional rivet buttons, pockets and a collar like its more traditional counterparts. There’s only one small difference: the sleeve. A simple swipe or tap on the cuff allows cyclists and other commuters to adjust music volume, silence a phone call or get updated GPS directions.
“Anyone on a bike knows that navigating your screen while navigating busy city streets isn’t easy – or a particularly good idea,” says Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation for Levi. “This jacket helps to resolve that real-world challenge by becoming the co-pilot for your life, on and off your bike.”
Like many smart watches, the jacket connects to a user’s phone via Bluetooth, creating a seamless (pun intended) integration of fashion and technology. The secret is the conductive, yet still washable, thread, created by Google’s Project Jacquard, which can be woven into clothing as easily as yarn. This technology could change how people use their mobile devices, enhancing the accessibility of smart devices, making their use as simple and as natural as putting on clothes. It’s all about simplifying people’s lives by integrating technology into everyday items, according to Ivan Poupyrev, founder of Project Jacquard. “If you can hide or weave interactivity and input devices into the materials, that will be the first step into making computers and computing invisibly integrated into an object and clothing,” he says.
Levi is no stranger to incorporating technology into their garments, beginning with adding rivets to their jeans to keep miners from splitting the fabric, and continuing with other innovations like waterproof denim. So the collaboration with Google makes sense. Whether it makes sense to consumers, though, remains to be seen. The Commuter Trucker jacket is expected to be released in spring 2017, after beta testing this fall.