Nanotechnology has made fibers smarter. Conductive yarns mean the fabrics that we wear and sit and sleep on can suddenly communicate with our devices. And 3D printing could change the way we think about, produce, wear, and even buy clothes.
Google’s Project Jacquard will essentially turn your clothes into an extension of your smart devices. It’s a primary example of an e-textile, the collective name given to fabrics with conductive threads or embedded electronics. Yarn that combines a regular thread like cotton with a metallic alloy can create touch- and gesture-sensitive patches on items of clothing. The controlling electronics are small and easily disguised, while a Bluetooth connection sends the data to your phone.
Levi’s will soon launch the first item of clothing that uses Project Jacquard’s technology, the Commuter Trucker Jacket. The jacket is on target for a spring 2017 launch, but its uses will probably evolve over time.
“One of the most exciting features of this jacket and the whole Project Jacquard system is that it can be customized by the consumer,” Dillinger says. “From the available menu of Jacquard’s ‘special features,’ you can upload, configure, then activate whichever features are most important or useful or fun. As application developers release new features, the jacket’s abilities can be reconfigured or optimized.”