Google unveiled a partnership with the Levi’s fashion brand to create smart clothing using Project Jacquard, a conductive textile material that can be woven into any fabric.

The computerised pants project, which came out of Google’s secretive ATAP lab, headed by a former DARPA research scientist, is code-named “Project Jacquard,” after Joseph Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the power loom. It is as an attempt to “bring conductive yarns to every garment and fabric on earth, and then to integrate touch sensors, haptic feedback, and more right into your jeans, car seats, curtains, everything.”

Google’s ATAP research team described how it created the material from scratch – and worked with several textile makers to weave it into various materials. It can be made in virtually any colour or thickness.

It showed off a jacket made with Jacquard on stage that could work as a touchpad. The material was pressure sensitive and could even detect hovering motions. In another example, the material was able to dial contact on your phone with just a swipe.

Of course, just having the cool tech isn’t enough to get people wearing it and Google isn’t exactly a fashion company, so it announced the partnership with Levi’s to bring Jacquard-enabled clothing to the market soon.

It’s an awesome concept – you can swipe away a phone call without ever interrupting conversation on a dinner date, or switch song tracks easily while walking down the street. The textile can be woven into any size that you need it to be as well.

As Apple is doing with its Watch, Google and Levi’s are marketing computerised pants as a way to stay connected to your digital life without having to pull out your phone.

“If there’s a chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world while maintaining eye contact with the person we’re eating dinner with, this is a real value,” Paul Dillinger of Levi Strauss said at the I/O conference.

It’s not clear when you’ll be able to pick up a pair of touchscreen jeans. Project Jacquard is still very much in the prototype stage and Google is “still trying to figure out the right application for the tech.” But make no mistake: the digital revolution is coming for your pants.


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