A closer look at how Google and Levi’s met the de­sign chal­lenges of their smart-jacket col­lab­o­ra­tion

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1. Thread­ing the nee­dle

Af­ter the team cre­ated the Jacquard thread, they had to fig­ure out what it would look like on the Com­muter jacket. First, Google made the threads white so that users would be able to see and ac­ti­vate them. But Levi’s didn’t like the aes­thetic. Google then made a ver­sion that blended en­tirely with the fab­ric. Too in­vis­i­ble. Levi’s sug­gested a weav­ing tech­nique called a “missed pick,” which cre­ates a slightly bumpy sur­face. “We’re de­ploy­ing a char­ac­ter­is­tic of the weav­ing process it­self to mark the ac­ti­vated space,” Dillinger says.

2. Well armed

To in­cor­po­rate the thread on the jacket, the Project Jacquard team needed a place that’s not as­so­ci­ated with any com­mon so­cial cues or prone to ac­ci­den­tal pat­ting. They landed on the sleeve since it’s both un­ob­tru­sive and ac­ces­si­ble to bi­cy­clists and other ac­tive con­sumers.

3. Mak­ing the con­nec­tion

To com­mu­ni­cate with a mo­bile app via Blue­tooth, the jacket needs to con­tain a mi­cro­pro­ces­sor—a piece of hard elec­tron­ics. To achieve that, Google and Levi’s de­signed a re­mov­able “but­ton,” called a snap tag, equipped with both the pro­ces­sor and a recharge­able bat­tery. It snaps to the cuff like a cuff link and must be re­moved be­fore the gar­ment is laun­dered.

Ivan Poupyrev demon­strates a phone-ac­ti­vat­ing sleeve swipe.

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