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Can A Jean Jacket Revive Wearable Technology?(The New York Times)

Levi’s new trucker jacket with Jacquard by Google

Levi’s new trucker jacket with Jacquard by Google

There is absolutely no reason I need a jean jacket to tell me my Uber is arriving, but I’m always amused when it does. Thanks, coat. So considerate.

The new Levi’s Trucker Jacket, made in collaboration with Google, does a lot of unnecessary but delightful things.

It vibrates when one of my chosen iPhone contacts texts me. When I swipe the inside of its cuff, it tells Spotify to skip to the next song. It orders my phone to take group pics remotely. And when it isn’t working, it makes me paw at my sleeve in frustration.

That’s how many new technologies start out: slightly awkward, questionably useful, kind of fun. The jacket’s sleeve is interwoven with touch-sensitive threads, which connect to a tiny rechargeable Bluetooth-enabled device embedded in the cuff.

The threads respond to swipes and taps, allowing users to control a phone. The device also gently vibrates, based on alerts that can be customized through the accompanying app, called Jaquard.

The first Levi’s smart jacket, introduced in 2017, was all business. It cost $350 and was aimed at bike commuters. “We made a jacket that was great for biking around during the week,” said Paul Dillinger, the head of product innovation at Levi’s, “but I’m a selfish, greedy designer and I want it to be everyone’s favorite jacket all week.”

The new jacket has a lower price, $198, a smaller electronic tag and expanded features like camera control and the ability to save a location on Google Maps. It is meant for younger people, or busy people, or “curious people who explore urban environments,” Mr. Dillinger said. Also, people who go to music festivals.

“There’s something about when you’re at a festival, and Hot Chip is about to play, and all your friends are right there,” he said. “You know that moment of joy when you’re all together? I’d like to facilitate that moment.”

We, as a society, are a ways off from our jean jackets facilitating most elements of that moment, including buying concert tickets, coordinating transportation, determining Hot Chip’s set time or doing the communication necessary to gather friends, Mr. Dillinger conceded.

But that’s the grand vision. He expects Levi’s and Google will add new features to the app over time, he said.

The idea of facilitating real-world connections has been the North Star — or at least primary talking point — of many wearable tech products, going back to the doomed Google Glass. From the TED stage in 2013, Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, made the case for his company’s face computer by denouncing the way people, including him, stared down at their smartphones.

Read the full article on The New York Times.

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