It’s been over four years since Google’s smart fabric technology, Project Jacquard, made its debut at the I / O developer conference. Jacquard is currently best known for being available on Levi’s denim jackets, released from what was then Google’s ATAP device, but Saint Laurent also unveiled its $1,000 Cit-e Backpack with built-in Jacquard technology. Today, with the launch of the Samsonite Konnect-i backpacker, Google is introducing a fourth product to the Jacquard range, which, at $200 for the Slim version and $220 for the Regular model, is a little more wallet-friendly than the Saint Laurent backpack.
Jacquard is Google’s technology for adding touch sensitivity to fabrics, in case you need a refresher. That means you can contact your jacket’s sleeve or, in this case, your backpack’s strap to unlock a handful of functions on your phone.
The number of gestures is relatively small, and what they can cause, especially because you can only really assign three gestures: brush up, brush down, and double-tap. You can delegate these basic media controls (think to brush up for “next song”), drop a pin to save a place, hear the current time, ping your phone, hear directions or activate the Google Assistant to your next waypoint or arrival time. Gestures can also cause the shutter of your phone to take a selfie and there is a “flash” feature that lights up the LED of the Jacquard tag. It’s not quite clear to me why this last role occurs, because the LED is poor. Google says it will help you get noticed in a crowd or remain visible at night, but nobody would be able to see it unless you try to find yourself in the darkest of caves.
As you can see, with your headphones on, the main concept here is to let you access some of the functions of your phone when walking through the area. It’s been about a year since the Jacquard-enabled trucker jacket was introduced by Google and Levi. That was the introduction of Jacquard 2.0 at the time, with a few extra features and a new dongle that now works across goods. At the time, it was fairly tepid for our analysis and that of our peers. This time around, I’m not sure it’ll be all that different.
Over the last few days, I’ve been trying out a backpack. Jacquard does what it promises to do, just as before. Recognition of the gesture worked as planned. Alerts from my phone made the tag vibrate, and while not the flashiest entry on the market, the backpack itself is comfortable. However, it’s a Samsonite, and the target market here is not usually college students, but business travelers (although for the moment that market is very dead).
Two models come from the backpack itself: slim and regular. The only real difference here is that there is a vertical zipper for the slim version and a horizontal one for the regular version. It has plenty of pockets, a laptop compartment with padding, and everything else you might expect from a modern backpack. I could probably see myself going with it for a business trip.
As before, whether Jacquard is a trick or a useful technology, the question remains. Most of us are not heading out as much as we used to, due to the pandemic, and we are certainly not going on a lot of journeys.
Jacquard pledges to encourage you to concentrate, without the distractions of your phone, on the world around you. It has to be universal for that to work or you’ll just forget you’ve ever had it. That works on a backpack, at least for me, better than a jacket.