Special Yarns (Not Tall-Tales) Forge New Wearable Tech Frontier

 The world of telecommunications has expanded into the very clothes we wear. Although there are many ingenious garments on the market today that have been made with gadgets and gizmos embedded within their fabrics that cleverly transmit information of all types, this is the first time the wearer of jeans woven with Jacquard thread would be able to control either a nearby or remote iPhone by simply tapping on their lap.

What are Jacquard threads?

The name, Jacquard, derives from early 19th century looms. To the naked eye, these yarns appear no different than any others, but their components are quite diverse. Their internal structures are a blend of thin metallic alloys mixed with both natural and synthetic yarns, like silk, polyester and cotton. This unique amalgam allows the yarn to be woven on any industrial loom, which means that clothing and even furniture can be transformed into surfaces that are inter-active.

Woven Jacquard Thread: Source: TechTimesWoven Jacquard Thread: Source: TechTimes


Google and Levi Strauss

The two moguls, Google and Levi Strauss, have joined forces for this amazing  wearable tech, gesture-interactive Project Jacquard, which is slated for production by the fall of 2016. Google's legendary interaction designer, Ivan Poupyrev, utilizing Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP), informed an audience at a recent developers' conference that while smart garments aren't new to the marketplace, they are still unrealistic novelties because they can't be mass-produced at scale.

He went on to explain:

"The clothing industry makes 19 billion garments per year. Compare that to the 128 million smart phones made last year. So when we talk about interactive textiles, we need to think about it at the scale of clothes manufacturing, using existing supply chains and industrial machines."


Google and Levi Strauss: Source: YarnsandFibersGoogle and Levi Strauss: Source: YarnsandFibers


According to Paul Dillinger, Levi Strauss's Vice President of Innovation, Jacquard is so promising because customers can now pleasantly merge their digital and physical lives. He says: " At home, we're  always burying our faces in screens; out in the wild, if you get a call while you are biking, you might risk your phone or your life to dig it out of your pocket. Devices can be seamlessly integrated into your jeans.


Project Jacquard: Source: CNetProject Jacquard: Source: CNet


Why are jeans the selected garments for Project Jacquard?

Both Dillinger and Poupyrev concur that of all fabrics, nothing withstands the rigors of the manufacturing process (except for ripping) better than denim. Jacquard threads avoid ripping because the touch screen is only a small piece of fabric and as long as that stays intact, the technology is unaffected and continues to work.

Special features of Jacquard threads

These threads can not only be produced anywhere on conventional looms, one loom can generate an endless variety of diverse textile designs at relatively low cost. That same loom can also weave interactivity, which makes Project Jacquard both innovative and exciting. This interaction can be reconfigured at any time.


Product Made From Jacquard Threads: Source: Levi StraussProduct Made From Jacquard Threads: Source: Levi Strauss


Other types of conductive thread, like that which is used in touch-screen-enabled gloves, for example, is usually available in ony one color and requires a specific type of weaving machine. Jacquard offers a rainbow of shades and can be used in any industrial loom. Via a small Bluetooth controller, which operates on a standard watch battery, this thread will empower any fabric to pair with other gadgets and operate like a touch screen.

The future of Project Jacquard

Project Jacquard is, in effect, a blank canvas that will allow designers and developers to expand into a new dimension in touch-sensitive textiles that can be used in an endless array of products. Knowledge of electronics is not necessary, although a good imagination and the ability to think outside that "standard clothing" box is mandatory. The concept goes far beyond just jeans. You won't need a remote anymore, as an arm-rest on your ultra modern couch can control your television. A set of curtains can adjust your "smart" lighting and a simple tablecloth can control all the appliances in your "smart" kitchen.

The possibilities are mind-blowing. Just hang in there and wait.

Closing thoughts on design:
Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent. ~ Joe Soprano

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