Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Google and Smarty Pants

Google plans to twist the phrase “what your clothes say about you” to “what you will say to your clothes.”

google_jacquard_9Many Americans are uneasy about the federal government poking through their emails and phone calls, so you can imagine their concern when Google turns their garments into touch screens. Somebody will be able to hack your underwear. That won’t be pretty.

Project Jacquard is a techie dream come true. It involves weaving Google’s conductive thread into textiles and carrying around a small Bluetooth device so your trousers act like a display device. Your pants will be just like your smartphone, except with two legs and a crotch piece.

With a swipe of your finger on your pant leg, you can send email, take a call or turn off the lights you left on at home. And it will seem a lot more natural talking into thin air instead of fumbling in your pocket for your actual phone.

If you think it’s weird to see a driver talking into a sun visor, wait until you see someone giving voice commands to their pants.

The real question is: Will smarty pants tell guys to hike up their trousers to cover their crack or dissuade fashion-challenged people from mixing plaids and stripes? If your clothes become communications channels, they should be a channel for the fashion police. Plus, you can check out product reviews while trying on smart clothes in a dressing room.

If you wonder why there is so much excitement over making clothes speak, consider this stat: There are 125 million smartphones manufactured every year, compared to 19 billion garments. Ka-ching.

Google-ATAP-Smart-ClothesUnlike a lot of tech stories that are part fact, but mostly science fiction, this one appears real. Levi’s says it will introduce next year a pair of jean you can tap and swipe just like any other mobile device touchscreen.

Industry projections suggest so-called smart garments will capture a sizable first-year share of the 91-million-unit wearables market in 2016. You have to wear pants. You don’t have to wear a clunky watch.

The Textile-Technology Industrial Complex is starting with denim because it is one of the hardest fabrics to manage. Apparently you need fire to weld seams. If you can make denim display your favorite phone numbers, industry experts say the rest of the fabric world is like walking in high cotton.

Of course, no one is planning to convert your bum into a YouTube viewing station. Only a portion of a garment will be woven to act like a touchscreen. This is an especially important design concept since jeans rip – or come pre-ripped. Levi’s head of innovation says the company can work around the rips, which may ironically make it easier for wearers to remember what part of your pants are touchable in public.

Smart Pillow(1)

The Sony Smart Pillow

Google doesn’t plan to stop with clothes. Why not turn your sofa arm into a TV remote control or your carpet into a video dance pad. What could be more convenient for a romantic moment than a pillow that can lower bedroom lights, turn on the stereo and close the curtains.

Maybe the greatest good from Google’s breakthrough technology is that people no longer will have to bear the stigma of always having their nose in their smartphone. Now they will be able to stick their nose someplace else. 

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