Tech Talk: Jacquard Is Only The Beginning

Ivan Poupyrev, technical lead for Google's ATAP department, responsible for the creation of Project Jacquard, is focused more on the possibilities of the Bluetooth dongle attached to Levi's first Jacquard-compatible garment. While it may seem counter-intuitive to take the focus off of the wearable sensor that gives Jacquard its magic, there's a good reason behind it; universal utility. While the wearable sensor in the snazzy piece of urban wear is what makes Jacquard's Bluetooth dongle able to work its magic and deliver notifications and gesture control to your sleeve, it's not the only possible conduit. In fact, with that advancement, Jacquard is already pretty flexible. The real opportunity for advancement lies in the dongle itself.

In its current form, Jacquard is a remote control device that lets you access functions of your phone without touching it. The dongle gives you notifications. It lets you answer or decline calls. It lets you use gestures on the cloth surface to do things like control your music. Poupyrev imagines a future where this technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, smaller and smaller, and eventually helps users ditch their phones. All kinds of crazy virtual and augmented reality tech, along with huge advancements in artificial intelligence, are already gunning for the phone in your pocket. Add a futuristic Jacquard to that list, and your current phone should start feeling a bit self-conscious.

In the future that Poupyrev envisions, an accessory like Jacquard is extremely tiny and can work with any clothing or accessory you may see fit to don. Powered by the cloud, it doesn't need a phone; it pulls your music and phone calls directly from the relevant servers and delivers them to a paired speaker and microphone combo somewhere, such as truly wireless earbuds or a speaker in the collar of your shirt. Perhaps even an implant, as scary as that may sound right now. Perhaps Google's smart Assistant software would also be on board, allowing you to order pizza while biking home from work and meet the pizza delivery driver at your house, or ask the software for directions to somewhere while you're on the road, without lifting a finger. The possibilities, should the technology continue to advance, are already basically limitless.

Now, let's talk about pairings with other futuristic tech. Some of you may have heard of a startup called Magic Leap. They're fairly mysterious, but they're working on some sort of augmented reality tech that was shown off in demos as being hyper-realistic and advanced. Things like video calls, holographic media and even a video game styled overlay menu on top of your everyday life were shown off. Taking this and a futuristic version of Jacquard to their logical extreme, along with advanced AI tech, a very different vision of interacting with personal computing devices comes to mind for the future than what we currently do. A number of possibilities open up, like using a gesture to open a notification and seeing it pop up before your eyes, or tapping your collar twice to bring up a holographic keyboard in a quiet place, then typing a Google search in and seeing the results. A boring meeting could be spiced up with some gaming that only you are aware is happening, with a few clever gestures and a touch controller set up on your pants. Those same sensors could even save lives, working together; a senior citizen wearing Jacquard and Magic Leap gear who falls down could have their plight detected by their clothing and see a phone call window pop up in front of them with emergency workers on the other line. Meanwhile, AI tech in their gear figures out that they've fallen and that paramedics are on the way, and sends a text to a predefined contact or group to let them know what happened and what hospital they'll be at. When they arrive, their family is already in the waiting room, ready to go up to where they're staying and offer them support, or sign any necessary forms or give information as needed.

The nearly limitless possibilities presented by Jacquard alone are incredible, but when paired with other tech, it becomes a whole new world. Naturally, there are going to be some security concerns. As with any cloud technology, data breaches can and probably will happen. If a hacker can disable or monitor your only form of communication, which happens to be a necklace or your shirt, security becomes a pretty huge concern, especially if that same hacker could also hijack your sight with ads and your hearing with loud messages. As technology evolves, however, so does security; things like end to end encryption and biometric authentication are good first steps on this road. Even without security concerns to worry about, such tech could easily become a nuisance and even a flop if misused by developers to create a subpar ecosystem or flood users' lives with advertisements. In the end, the amazing possibilities presented by something like Jacquard can be an incredible advancement or a sadly missed opportunity, depending on how they're used.

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