Google’s ATAP group is responsible for some of the company’s most forward-looking technologies, like the touch-sensitive fabric known as Project Jacquard. Google partnered with Levi’s two years ago to launch a custom denim jacket with Project Jacquard fibers in the sleeve, and now there are two more outerwear options. The new jackets are less expensive and more visually similar to Levi’s regular garments. They also feature a more refined Jacquard tag that could eventually connect to more clothing.
Google first demoed Jacquard at I/O 2015 alongside the Project Soli radar gesture system that’s set to debut in the Pixel 4. Google managed to bring Jacquard to the market faster in 2017, but it only came to a single jacket produced by Levi’s. That Commuter Trucker Jacket cost a whopping $ 350, and it had just a small touch-sensitive section on the sleeve. With the Jacquard app, you could configure your phone to respond to taps and swipes on the sleeve. The jacket could control music playback, launch apps, and more.
The new jackets with Jacquard support are the Classic Trucker and the Sherpa Trucker, the latter of which has a fluffy lining to make it warmer. Again, the left sleeve has the touch-sensitive fibers woven into the denim. They look almost identical to the non-smart versions of the same products, but they’re about $ 100 more expensive. The Classic Trucker will cost $ 198 and the Sherpa Trucker will run you $ 248.
They have a redesigned, smaller Jacquard Bluetooth tag that plugs into a connector under the cuff. You can detach the dongle to recharge and to wash the jacket. The last Jacquard jacket was only good for about 10 wash cycles, but Levi’s says the new versions are more robust. You still can’t dry-clean them, though.
Google designed the new Jacquard dongle with the intention that people will move it between multiple smart garments. The device has more memory, allowing for multiple modes designed for different pieces of clothing. Of course, there are only these two jackets right now, but Google hopes Jacquard technology will fade into the background and become a part of people’s lives in more pieces of clothing.
Getting people to move a Jacquard dongle around between clothing items is an ambitious goal, and ATAP doesn’t have the best track record so far. ATAP was behind Project Tango, Project Ara, and Spotlight Stories, all of which failed to take off. We’ll find out how Jacquard does when Levi’s new jackets launch at some point this fall.