Google bets that smart fabrics, gesture interfaces will replace fiddling on a tiny wearable touchscreen

As mobile device screens shrink, Google is developing new user interfaces that don't rely on touchscreens

At Google I/O 2015, attendees could play around with the company's mysterious fabric for controlling connected devices like smartphones, light bulbs and 3D modeling software.
At Google I/O 2015, attendees could play around with the company's mysterious fabric for controlling connected devices like smartphones, light bulbs and 3D modeling software.

Instead of trying to scroll through your contacts list on a tiny smartwatch, Google thinks you should be able to just touch your sleeve to initiate a phone call.

That's just one example of what developers might be able to do with Project Jacquard, unveiled at the I/O developer conference on Friday. The project centers on fabric that incorporates tactile sensors with the result that clothing can offer some touchscreen functionality.

Project Jacquard is one way that Google is attempting to develop new user interfaces for mobile devices that rely less on touchscreens and more on gestures. As the screen sizes on mobile devices shrink, people are reaching the limit to what they're able to accomplish, especially with wearables, said Regina Dugan, a Google senior executive who works in the company's Advanced Technology and Projects group.

During a demonstration of a suit jacket made with the smart fabric, a person was able to place a call on his smartphone by touching the garment's sleeve. The jacket needed additional electronics to work and it's unclear how this technology would respond to getting wet, for example when being cleaned.

While tactile fabric isn't new, Google wants to make the technology more than a novelty and incorporate it into everyday fashion, said Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google. To that end, the company is working with Levi's to create clothes made with fabric from Project Jacquard, but gave no details on when these garments would go on sale or how much they would cost.

Google, though, realizes that it must work with the fashion and textile industry if it wants to see its smart fabric end up in clothing, Poupyrev said. The fabric can withstand manufacturing processes, and is available in a range of colors, he said. Google is building the entire system for smart fabrics, from the yarns to the apps, technologies and services that would work with them.

I/O attendees were able to try out the smart fabric in a demonstration area. Sliding your fingers across or up and down the fabric controlled nearby electronics. In one demonstration, people used the fabric to control a 3D image shown on a display. In other displays, a swatch of fabric was used to control lighting and change the song playing on a smartphone.

Google also showed a gesture radar, called Project Soli, that can capture and interpret a person's hand movements. Instead of scrolling through a contact list on a smartwatch screen, for example, a person could perform that task by making the same movement over a wearable that's equipped with the sensor. To change the volume on a device, one could make a gesture that resembles turning a dial.

The aim is to replace all of the physical commands needed to control a wearable with hand gestures, said Poupyrev. Radar can capture subtle 3D movements and work either during the day or at night, among other sensor criteria, he said. For Project Soli, Google and its partners shrunk the radar functionality down to a chip that can fit inside a wearable.

The gesture radar can distinguish distance as well as gestures. During a demonstration, Poupyrev changed the time on a digital watch face by holding his hand at different heights. Holding his hands close to the chip and gesturing like he was turning a dial changed the hours while holding his hand higher up changed the minutes.

Google is building an API (application programming interface) for the gesture radar and will release it later this year.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Launch marketing council Episode 5: Retailer and supplier

In our fifth and final episode, we delve into the relationship between retailer and supplier and how it drives and influences launch marketing strategies and success. To do that, we’re joined by Campbell Davies, group general manager of Associated Retailers Limited, and Kristin Viccars, marketing director A/NZ, Apex Tool Group. Also featured are Five by Five Global managing director, Matt Lawton, and CMO’s Nadia Cameron.

More Videos

Hi,When online retailers establish their multi channel strategy and they are using or will to use live chatbot to support their customers...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Thanks for nice information regarding Account-based Marketing. PRO IT MELBOURNE is best SEO Agency in Melbourne have a team of profession...

PRO IT MELBOURNE

Cultivating engaging content in Account-based Marketing (ABM)

Read more

The best part: optimizing your site for SEO enables you to generate high traffic, and hence free B2B lead generation. This is done throug...

Sergiu Alexei

The top 6 content challenges facing B2B firms

Read more

Nowadays, when everything is being done online, it is good to know that someone is trying to make an improvement. As a company, you are o...

Marcus

10 lessons Telstra has learnt through its T22 transformation

Read more

Check out tiny twig for comfy and soft organic baby clothes.

Morgan mendoza

Binge and The Iconic launch Inactivewear clothing line

Read more

Blog Posts

Getting privacy right in a first-party data world

With continued advances in marketing technology, data privacy continues to play catchup in terms of regulation, safety and use. The laws that do exist are open to interpretation and potential misuse and that has led to consumer mistrust and increasing calls for a stronger regulatory framework to protect personal information.

Furqan Wasif

Head of biddable media, Tug

​Beyond greenwashing: Why brands need to get their house in order first

Environmental, Social and (Corporate) Governance is a hot topic for brands right now. But before you start thinking about doing good, Craig Flanders says you best sort out the basics.

Craig Flanders

CEO, Spinach

​The value of collaboration: how to keep it together

Through the ages, from the fields to the factories to the office towers and now to our kitchen tables, collaboration has played a pivotal role in how we live and work. Together. We find partners, live as families, socialise in groups and work as teams. Ultimately, we rely on these collaborative structures to survive and thrive.

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in