Google Glass: Is it Giving Way to Google Pants?

Invisible Wearables May Soon Become the Order of the Day

Project Jacquard
Image © Google.
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June 06, 2015

The entire mobile devices and wearables industry has been awaiting the entry of the much-hyped, much-maligned Google Glass. While test runs of the gadget had proved that it would be of invaluable help to several industries including healthcare, enterprise and so on; there were far too many negative reviews about it; especially, about the lack of privacy and security. Now, however, Google is thinking of changing its strategy – the giant evidently wants to create invisible wearables.

At its recent I/O Conference held in San Francisco, the giant announced and demoed Project Jacquard, which involves seamlessly weaving wearables into everyday fabrics.

According to Google’s statement, weaving conductive metal threads into regularly usable fabric could change that apparel into a touchpad that users could easily and conveniently work with. This way, something that you use on an a daily basis; say a shirt, pant, sofas, chairs or even car seats, could help you communicate via mobile, without you having to actually physically use any of your mobile devices!

The giant stated that the cloth would be “indistinguishable” from normal, regular fabric and would feel just as light and comfortable. It would be controlled by a tiny chip, just about the size of a jacket button; which would sense touch similar to a smartphone screen. With time, it would also be able to interpret gestures using machine algorithms and would be able to communicate wirelessly with external mobile devices.

Project Jacquard: Other Details

  • Cost: The company has yet to reveal how much such a “smart” fabric may cost. But it did state that it would “cost-efficient” and that the interactive chip would be suitable to weave into most of the major fabrics in existence today, including cotton, silk, polyester and so on. It also said that the standard machines used for textiles at present would work well with the new technology. While there is nothing new about the concept of conductive fabrics, the company will be faced with the challenge of producing them on a mass scale.
  • Power: The chip, the company stated, would not guzzle down too much power. However, users would need to charge their “smart” clothing every few days. With the evolution of the technology, the chip may be able to harvest power from sunlight or motion.
  • Flexibility: Google said that the interactive chip would have to be placed in a way that would not interfere with movement or flexibility for the user. Also, it would have to be positioned at an angle that allows it to work optimally, while also filtering its functionality from random touches and gestures. Hence, the most important aspect about the chip is that it would have to be extremely flexible and adaptable to the user’s environment, while also being able to accurately predict deliberate touches from the random ones. That would be the next major challenge for the company.
  • Applications: Google has not yet planned exactly how the “smart” clothing would interact with other external devices and environments. The company did not say precisely what types of applications and other software would be used to help Project Jacquard successfully connect to other electronic and mobile items. The company, however, did state that it would be currently partnering with Levi’s and then leave the creative tech part to app developers, designers and innovators.

    Issues of Security and Privacy

    Google Glass has already come under the scanner for being a potential threat to others’ privacy and basic right to security. In such a scenario, invisible wearables could create even more of a hullabaloo among the public. While technology makes it easy and convenient for us, the undeniable fact is that it does interfere with our personal space and privacy.

    In any case, one thing is very apparent – connected devices are clearly the future of computing and communication, both for individual users and the enterprise sector at large. Smartphones and tablets are only one side of the picture.

    With time, several other regular household things, such as fabrics, tracking and locking systems (many of them already are interactive), switches, door knobs and so on, may evolve to be able to wirelessly communicate and interact with each other.