Google/Levis Smart Jacket Is Already Ten Years Late

This is the Levis smart(wish) jacket, c/o Project Jacquard

For the way people are gassing about it you’d imagine the new Google/Levis Commuter Trucker Jacket was an all-new paradigm, but it really isn’t.

This is the JanSport jacket. It had flexible iPod controls and shipped over a decade ago.

While I agree that the future of wearable tech is something you wear everywhere, and think smart clothing has an inevitable part to play in this, the features offered by the Google Levis Project Jacquard thing are so limited. They pretty much match those offered by Jan Sport with its smart jacket over a decade ago in 2006.

That jacket even used its own flexible electronics. All that’s really been added is use of the phone.

I don’t think that’s particularly interesting. All the same, the experiment does raise some interesting questions about wearable tech, questions that don’t seem to have been answered yet (and certainly not by this jacket):

  1. What should a smart wearable do? I’d argue that they must all be thought of as Total Smartphone Replacements — as nothing is smart unless it is connected, and nothing is connected if it isn’t connected to the phone. What happens when you don’t have a phone?
  2. What does a smart wearable add? Apple Watch adds the world’s best fitness tracker and powerful digital health sensors. AirPods add a control interface for completely wireless smart experience. What should a coat add? I’d argue physical biometrics, authentication, environmental protection, smart fabrics that react to light, heat, and moisture. Take a look at these smart wearables for some of the compelling ways smart clothes may augment your life.
  3. Who is the smart wearable for? Hint: The target market can’t be confined to middle class hipsters when the existence of that class is under existential threat.
  4. What problem does it solve? The Jan Sport jacket was ahead of its time, but it wasn’t ever really much more than a nice to have — the new Levis/Google jacket is too limited to be anything more than that. So far as I can tell the only problem it solves is to give Levis a little digital tech association and to provide Googe with yet another press release to shore up public perception of the world’s biggest advertising company.
  5. How can it be improved? If the wearable device you introduce is in a developmental culture-de-sac from launch, then you’ve launched a gimmick, not a product line.



Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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