Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Touch Sensitive Fabric

Whenever the conversation about wearable technology comes up it invariably leads to smart watches and AR powered glasses.  The people in “the know” all seem to agree this is where the interesting ideas in wearables are, and that consumers simply are not smart enough to understand the benefits. For myself I was very happy to stop wearing a watch back in the early 90’s even before I had a smartphone (I’d loop my watch over my belt), and the idea of a constant AR display over my vision seems like a recipe to drive me half mad. I’ve always been far more interested in projects such as Intel’s JARVIS which was an audio only earbud form wearable (https://www.theverge.com/2014/1/6/5282416/intel-unveils-jarvis-its-smart-headset).   I believe the Levi Commuter Jacket is far more in line with what most people are looking for in a wearable, and am interested to see where the underlying technology from Google’s Jacquard pans out.

Basically the Commuter Jacket uses a bit of touch sensitive fabric to allow the wearer to communicate with the phone.  Touch sensitive fabric essentially mimics a touchpad interface that you would have on a Mac, but it is made of cloth instead.  Wire is woven into the fabric and then as you perform gestures on the fabric the sensors can determine what you are doing. There is a little bluetooth dongle that connects to the fabric that allows you to connect to your smartphone (You can remove it when you wash the jacket). You then use an app to tell your smartphone how to handle certain gestures. A double tap can mean one thing, a swipe left another, and a swipe right something else still. Additionally the dongle can give haptic feedback so that the smartphone can tell the wearer something without needing to look at the screen. The point in the commuter jacket is to allow bike riders to be able to interact with their smartphone while riding, but you could see this type of interface being used in different environments.

Imagine if you were in a retail situation where you knew that the customer was pushing beyond your abilities.  Instead of being obvious about calling a manager using a phone, what if you could tap your wrist 3 times and an auto message would be broadcast to managers on duty so that they could simply slide into the conversation.  This could be good in the construction industry where employees have a habit of destroying $600 phones.  Let them keep the phone in their pocket, and interact with it using their shirt sleeve. It seems to me that smart clothing is far more interesting than the watches and glasses.

I need to wear clothing anyway.  Using cloth vendors can find more UX comfortable ways of sending commands to devices.  Personally I normally keep my right hand by my right pocket. If the front of the pocket could interpret my commands I could interact with a device while continuing to look at someone as I’m having a conversation. It seems like the cost of the fabric and dongle will come down significantly with scale, so that any coat or jeans above bargain basement prices could incorporate the technology.

This is where I would place my best for the future of wearables. The good thing is that it works with both Android and most iPhones too. You can find out more here: http://www.levi.com/US/en_US/features/levi-commuter-xgoogle-jacquard/

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