What Connected Fabrics Mean to Me

It’s been almost a full year since Google announced their Project Jacquard. The wearable technology promised to shepherd in a revolutionary approach to anything incorporating their interconnected and wearable fabrics. Meaning, things such as fashion, home textiles, and even automotive fabrication could all conceivably evolve into more intelligent experiences. An unbelievable transformation not only in textile fabrication, but also in wearable interactivity, as the textiles themselves will incorporate the technology that will translate common gestures over fabrics into actions or controls.

At the same announcement in May of 2015, Google also shared that they would partner with the Levi Strauss brand, coming together to explore the practical application of this new technology.

Fast forward to 2016, at this years CES, Samsung shared some of their latest explorations in wearables. Things like the Samsung Smart Suit, the Body Compass, and the Welt; all gave a peek at Samsung’s Human Fit, their vision for incorporating technology and intelligence into the actual garment. And just like Google, Samsung is embarking into a new realm, hoping to practically apply these technologies into the consumer world.

And that practical application is exactly what makes this interesting. 

Seemingly, we are at the cusp of something groundbreaking. When large organizations like Google and Samsung spend immense amounts of time, budgets, and gather large teams to explore and generate ideas that will be, in no small form - transformative; then it’s indeed time that we pay attention.

The introduction of smart textiles and smarter wearables, will seemingly give each of us even more natural control over our digital environment. Relative freedom from the screen seems inevitable. A simple slide of the finger, movement of the arm, or maybe a gentle application of pressure over a fabric, will indicate an action. 

But so much is left unanswered. Things like applying singular and personal control to these gestures. Imagine leaning in to your date one night and gently caressing her arm, only to cue up her latest workout jam that will be blared to the masses, all enjoying the latest RomCom at your local movie theatre. Or, what happens when your teenager steals…umm borrows…that favorite jacket of yours and now all the interactivity of a teenager skews the data inputs of the 45 year old who owns the jacket?

What about the ongoing issue of privacy? No matter how open-minded, consumers will always have some level of concern with giving too much access to themselves. What will be the trade-off? Convenience? Is that enough?

And then there’s the simple issue of the ability of these fabrics to be washed. For example, Samsung’s Body Compass cannot be submerged in a washing machine and must be washed by hand.

Whatever the case may be, the reality is that this is progress, and not just progress for progress sake. Consumers have set the targeted expectation of personalization. What started as a simple greeting at the neighborhood 5 and 10, or house calls from the family doctor; is now evolving into something even more personalized. And, yes, saying that technology can replace the humanity of real life interactions, is anti-social at best. But, the excitement that lies in each of us being able to cater experiences to us, seems almost biological. Almost like a second skin, or an ancillary brain. And I, for one, can use all the help I can get. So bring it on!