You may remember Google’s unveiling of its collaboration with Levi’s to create the smart jacket in May of last year. Well, over a year later, the jacket is finally ready for sale, and will be available for purchase this Wednesday. Aimed particularly at cyclists and bike messengers, it will set you back $350, but it may be worth its price if you’re often on the go and need to use your phone while riding.
The jacket has multi-touch sensors weaved in the fabric (called Jacquard Threads) as well as a sensory tag, and features a cuff that allows the wearer to use a variety of hand gestures to control functions on their smart phone, such as taking calls, checking messages, tuning music, adjusting the volume and getting directions from Google maps. The sensors in the fabric wirelessly connect with the user’s phone and the cuff can even notify the wearer of incoming calls or texts via sound and a flashing light. Each individual user can customize what gestures do what, making it relatively easy to set specific gestures to specific tasks. The good news is that even though the jacket is a Google product, it will work both with iOS and Android devices. And with the sensory tag is removed from the jacket’s cuff, the garnement is machine washable.
It isn’t clear how much demand there will be for the smart jacket, but it certainly is innovative. I wonder how much easier it will make things for cyclists, however, because I can’t really see that using one hand to swipe at your sleeve while riding a bike is much easier than using your phone. Also, I wonder how efficient the sensory tag will be at recognizing the right swipe while the rider is in motion. After all, there are already other options that allow bikers to access most anything on their phones without so much as using a hand – voice controls to Siri, for example, work just as well with a smart phone and a pair of Bluetooth earbuds.
According to a Google spokesperson, “What’s next is right now – we’re going to listen to feedback. From those learnings, we have the opportunity to evolve abilities within the jacket since Jacquard is a platform and to consider the next version of the jacket, or other items.” Sounds like Google is testing the waters – we’ll see where it goes from here.