Google is all about ambient computing these days. From TVs to speakers, the company is prioritizing smarter, more connected technology. Google began making smart clothing when it started Project Jacquard back in 2015. Since then, the project has produced things like jackets with Levi and shoe insoles with Nike. Now Google is announcing its latest fabric-based innovation: two new backpacks developed with Samsonite. And they start at prices low enough for normal people to actually consider buying one.
Last week, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects unit teased a collaboration centered around its Project Jacquard smart clothing tag featuring sportsgear brand Adidas and video game publisher Electronic Arts. Well, the teasing's over now and what we've got are a new pair of insoles that are meant to get you (or your kids) playing real soccer while also acing virtual soccer in EA Sports FIFA Mobile. Adidas calls it GMR.
Levi's and Google are partnering once again to deliver two new jackets with Google's touch-sensitive Jacquard technology built-in. With these products, Google and Levi's are preparing to bring Jacquard to a wider audience. The first collaboration between the two companies resulted in the Commuter Trucker Jacket, which launched in 2017 for $350. Thankfully, these new jackets are significantly cheaper, with the standard version starting at $198. While the Commuter Jacket was an entirely new product, these new Jacquard-equipped jackets are based on Levi's classic trucker jacket.
When it went on sale in late September, Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket was the first piece of clothing to integrate Google's Project Jacquard touch-gesture functionality. At $350 a pop, it's not a surprise that the Jacquard by Google app (which is used to customize and control the jacket) shows just 100-500 installs. That means a few hundred people will be delighted to learn that the app just got its first major update, which lets wearers of the Jacquard-woven jacket use gestures that enable new light modes for the tag on the sleeve, as well as find their phone.
Pixel 2 and 2 XL owners are getting a small bonus for purchasing Google's latest smartphones. Google Spotlight Stories, a vestige of Google's Motorola days showcasing the power of virtual reality storytelling, is giving owners of the latest Pixel devices early access to "Son of Jaguar," an animated short film about a luchador from director Jorge Gutierrez.
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.