Remember when we said yesterday that Google's Project Jacquard would lead to the advent of touch-friendly pants? Well, we were more right than we thought: During the Google ATAP address here at Google I/O 2015, Technical Program Lead Ivan Poupyrev confirmed that the search giant is teaming up with Levi's to help bridge the gap between Jacquard's technically complex fabrics and the seemingly arcane world of fashion. "We think about Jacquard as a raw material that will make computation a part of the language which apparel designers and textile designers and fashion designers speak," he said. "We want digital to be just the same thing as quality of yarn or colors used," referring to how fundamental these sorts of connected considerations should be.
If you haven't keeping tabs on Jacquard (named for a kind of weaving that requires a special loom), Google's creating a sort of conductive yarn that they, or their partners, can embed right into fabrics. By weaving those threads into meshes, you're ultimately left with interactive patches that can sense your touch, how hard you're pressing on them, and even your hand's position in space before it even makes contact with the fabric. Here's the thing, though: Don't expect your next pair of Jacquard jeans to put the touchscreens in your life out of job. Poupyrev says that Jacquard is better suited for broad gestures (at least for now, anyway), but the potential is still pretty staggering. One video demo showed a person swiping across the length of their forearm -- clad in a Jacquard jacket, naturally -- to initiate a phone call on a nearby Nexus 6.
It's that seamlessness of behavior that's got companies like Levi's so worked up. By baking the ability to pick up your gestures in something that has no screen, the possibility for digital distraction doesn't loom in the air the way it does with a smartwatch. Levi's head of product innovation Paul Dillinger said the notion that really got the clothier's imagination thrumming is enabling "the clothes we love to interface with the digital world, while maintaining eye with the people we're having dinner with."