Commute by Bike? Check Out Google's $350 Smart Jacket.
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A $350 pair of Levi's that syncs with your smartphone? Is it Fashion Week again? No, it's South by Southwest, the annual gathering of tech enthusiasts and culture lovers, where Google and Levi's offered an update on a project they've been working on to make a stylish denim garment full of technology.
The garment isn't jeans, though, it's a special version of Levi's Trucker jacket woven out of electronic threads that Google is working on as part of its Project Jacquard. First announced in 2015, the jacket is inching closer to reality with a price tag and a release date of "this fall," according to Engadget.
For $350, you'll get a jacket that takes the term "wearable" -- traditionally used for smartwatches -- to new heights. A small tag will be embedded in the denim, containing all the electronic components the jacket needs to connect to your smartphone. The rest of the garment looks like any other Trucker jacket, except you can swipe it to take calls and use other smartphone functions when your device isn't easily accessible.
The target audience is urban bike riders: a promotional video shows a biker swiping his sleeve to change song tracks, get navigation directions and answer calls. The electronic fibers woven into the denim capture touch interactions, and use machine-learning algorithms to determine various gestures. Data is then wirelessly transmitted via the electronic tag -- removable for washing -- to a mobile device.
This being Google, of course, Project Jacquard isn't stopping at a denim jacket for fashion-conscious techies who commute to work by bike. The company envisions the fabric being used by any fashion designer, and it is working on developing an ecosystem of apps and cloud services to convince people that the high-tech fabric is worth a higher price.
Speaking of paying a premium, you can pick up a "dumb" Trucker jacket right now for $65. We're betting some people will find it worth spending an extra $285 to answer phone calls from their coat sleeve, but many more won't.