Here’s a rare sight: a project coming out of Google’s ATAP division that is actually hitting the market.
After years in development – and a long delay – Project Jacquard has finally become a consumer product – Levi’s Commuter Trucker, a $350 smart denim jacket.
It’s actually a smart sleeve. Only the left sleeve of the jacket is smart, in the sense that you can tap it and “brush” it to interact with an Android or iOS smartphone. The fabric contains thin wires that can sense variations in the electrical field, much like a touchscreen. The jacket, which is fully washable, connects to the smartphone via a Bluetooth clip-on.
Style over substance. Google and Levi were eager to emphasize the fact that the smart Commuter Trucker is a piece of high-end clothing first and foremost, not a “gadget.” That seems to be a defense against potential criticism of the high price (more than twice the price of the “dumb” version) and limited functionality of the jacket (you can control playback, start navigation, and that’s about it).
Out of ATAP. Founded by Regina Dugan (formerly with DARPA, currently with Facebook), ATAP is one of Google’s skunkworks division, responsible for projects like Ara, Tango, Soli, and Jacquard. Since Rich Osterloh (ex-CEO of Motorola under Lenovo) took helm of Google’s unified hardware unit last year, ATAP has been quiet, though according to Google, it’s still “business as usual.”