Google’s Latest Project, Jacquard, Helps Textiles Double as Touchscreens

Google’s next new exciting project will entail doubling clothes as touchscreens – a feat that the tech giant hopes to achieve by weaving textile fabric with conductive yarns.

The new endeavor, called ‘Project Jacquard’ is being spearheaded by the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab that Google runs. Initial reports state that this smart yarn will be strong enough to be integrated into virtually any kind of fabric. The touch-sensitive yarn will comprise an intricate network of thin, metallic alloys that can be interwoven with regular yarn produced from silk, cotton, or the like.

Jacquard yarns might seem like a futuristic concept, but in a few years’ time, they could well be a standard feature of clothing. The team behind this project says that to enable the user to distinguish Jacquard yarns from their regular fabric, the former will feature prominent stitching. To do this, the team intends to use isolated patterns that clearly tell the wearer which part of their clothing is a ‘touchscreen’. Alternatively, it could also be seamlessly intertwined with the entire piece of clothing, depending on users’ preferences.

With conductive yarns, it will be possible for people to wear clothes that carry large interactive surfaces. The team has already developed a set of techniques that will integrate the conductive yarn with a discreet network of circuits and connectors about the size of a button.

These miniaturized electronics will capture touch interactions and wirelessly transmit them to handheld devices to control a vast array of applications and functions. In a demonstration of this technology held recently, Google’s team turned on and off Philips' Hue lights by simply tapping the touch-sensitive fabric. The team also showed how they could control the color settings and brightness of the lights by swiping and scrolling across the fabric. Google is positioning Jacquard as a ‘blank canvas’ for the fashion industry to play with.


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