Google kept Motorola's ATAP (Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group) when it sold the company a few years ago, but some high-profile projects like Ara have failed to materialize. Now, the ATAP division is finally bearing fruit. The Project Jacquard touch-sensitive fabric first demoed more than two years ago is coming to market as a collaboration with Levi's. The new Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket launches this Wednesday for $350.
It's alright if you've already forgotten about Project Soli - with all of the crazy futuristic stuff that the Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team works on, it's easy to get confused. Essentially, Soli is a system that adapts radar-style techniques into tiny hardware in order to enable the tracking of hands and fingers (or anything else, really) which in turn allows software to recognize hand gestures with precision and accuracy that beats anything on the consumer market today. It's pretty cool - watch this video from last year's Google I/O for a crash course.
Fans of the burgeoning art of 360-degree short-form storytelling have probably been enamored by Google's Spotlight Stories, a series of videos designed to highlight the narrative potential of the VR format. The latest one is Pearl, a sort of extended animated music video about a man, his daughter, and the beat-up hatchback car that they share over about 20 years. The short is directed by Patrick Osbourne, and the original song "No Wrong Way Home" was written by Alexis Harte and JJ Weisler and performed by Nicki Bluhm and Kelley Stoltz.
There are many opinions about wearable technology, but most criticisms focus on the awkwardness – or just plain unattractiveness – of many products that have come thus far. One of the more interesting presentations from I/O 2015 came during the ATAP session, in which Project Jacquard was introduced. This is a touch-sensitive fabric that can be woven into regular clothing and used a bit like a trackpad. This technology is being put to real use, and in a partnership with Levi Strauss, the first product using Jacquard will be launching next Spring.
Levi's is calling it the Commuter Trucker Jacket, a denim jacket with Jacquard woven into the left sleeve.
Google sold Motorola to Lenovo at the end of 2014, but now it's getting a small piece of it back—the CEO. Lenovo recently announced a reorganization of its mobile business. This included the departure of Moto's CEO Rick Osterloh, and now we know why. Osterloh has come back to Google where he will lead a new hardware team that's responsible for Nexus, Chromecast, Glass, and more.
Combining metallic alloys with natural or synthetic threads, Google's ATAP and its industrial partners have created Jacquard yarn. Named for Joseph Marie Jacquard's inventions, the yarn is the basis for ATAP's Project Jacquard, an effort to make it easy for textile makers to weave interactive surfaces into everyday textiles like clothes and furniture. These surfaces would ultimately control things like mobile devices, and perhaps evolve into experiences and functions of their own. Jacquard yarn allows these new surfaces to either be plainly visible or completely hidden from the user so, just like regular yarn, designers can decide exactly how a surface will appear - or not appear, as the case may be.
Owners of Motorola's newer Android devices are probably familiar with Spotlight Stories. Those are the immersive animated shorts that are available via the built-in Spotlight Player app. Now Google has released a new Spotlight Stories app that has all three shorts from the Motorola experience, but adds a new live-action film called Help.
Project Tango, also known as "that Google thing that isn't Project Ara," is growing up. The 3D motion and mapping hardware has been moved out of the Advanced Technology And Products Group (basically Google's version of Lockheed Skunkworks) after two years of development and the not-quite-release of a developer's kit. Now, like all recent graduates in this economy, it's moving back in with its parents at Google. So... right down the hall in Mountain View, I suppose?
Tango is a software and hardware package that uses various sensitive motion trackers and camera systems to record incredible amounts of motion detail while simultaneously mapping out the surrounding environment.
Google Maps is one of those apps that will always have an enormous number of potential new features, so it's interesting to see the things Google is focusing on with each new release. We just saw an update to v9.2 with new navigation settings and auto-correct for searches, but there are plenty of other really interesting additions in the works. Let's take a look at some of the features we might have to look forward to. It's time for a teardown.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are, by their nature, speculative and based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong.