Smart clothes are coming and Levi’s has fired the opening salvo. Starting on soon, you’ll be able to pick up the Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket with a smart sleeve that connects to your phone through Bluetooth. The touch-sensitive fabric that makes this possible has been coming for a while now. Google showed off the tech a couple of years ago and Levi’s officially announced the jacket a little more than a year ago.
The technology comes out of Google’s ATAP division. The experimental tech division has several popular projects (RIP Project Ara) but this one, Project Jacquard, is one of the first to produce a consumer product. The jacket integrates capacitive threads with copper cores into the jacket. This allows you to swipe or tab on the sleeve to trigger commands that are then sent to your phone. There’s a small dongle that connects to the jacket’s sleeve to transmit the commands that you remove to throw the jacket into the washer and dryer.
The Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket is aimed at those who commute via bike. It has several reflectors built into the jacket and a pocket inside the jacket to house your phone. The companion app is rather simple, but that’s by design. The jacket aims to replace looking at your phone for simple gestures like starting your music or getting audio cues for directions. The jury is still out whether it’s more practical something like a Bisto device, but Google and Levi’s are both quick to point out that this is a jacket with tech rather than a straight tech product.
Ivan Poupyrev, the lead on Google’s side of the project, said that “We wanted to make a garment, not a gadget.” This particular garment comes in at a hefty $350 whereas normal Trucker jackets start at around $150. It remains to be seen if there’s enough added value there for most people to want to pick one up. You’ll be able to grab the Levi’s Trucker Commuter jacket at a few boutiques starting October 27. Beyond that, you’ll be able to grab the jacket from Levi’s website on October 2.