Levi’s introduces their smart Commuter jacket, and scientists create new sensor that can be integrated into clothing. All it takes to make this jacket smart is this Bluetooth device (via Levis)

 

Even with so much technology at our fingertips it still sucks to pull your phone out of your pocket on a crowded commute. Most of the time it’s impossible. If you do manage to do it, it means awkward gestures and bumping into people around you. Levi’s wants to alleviate this problem with their first smart jacket as part of project Jacquard. Dubbed Levi’s Commuter jacket, the garment looks like any of their other denim jackets. What’s the difference? It’s housed with conductive fabric and a Bluetooth device that attaches to the jacket. No one will even know it’s there. The connected area only has 15 threads on the left sleeve to let you know where to touch to trigger certain actions from your phone.

 

So, what can this jacket do? Tap your fingers on the jacket to find out what time it is. Swipe your hand to change, play, or skip a track when listening to music. You can even change which gestures you want to bring up with the companion Project Jacquard Android app. Levi’s is currently working on support to add more gestures later. And just like with most technology you carry with you, the jacket runs on a battery. The lifespan of it is around two days, and the Bluetooth device can easily be removed and charged via any USB port. And when it’s time to wash the jacket, just detach the cuff and throw it in the wash.

 

Expect to find Levi’s Commuter jacket in stores this fall for $350. You have to admit, it’s a pretty cool way to solve these first world problems. Necessary, not really, but if you’re going to drop a lot of money on a jacket, why not have it do the hard work for you?

 

This smart tech integrated clothing is not only being sought after by designers. Researchers want to take advantage of it too. Scientists recently created a fiber optic material that can be made quickly and then integrated with existing fabrics. The results are flexible, wearable sensors that easily fit in with the clothes on your back while keeping track of health stats, like your heartbeat.

 

The fiber was created by melting and spinning two polymers; one that transmits light-based data and the other that acts as a coating. Normally, melting and spinning fiber optics is extremely difficult, but with the process, researchers used it not only worked but proved to be efficient producing over 1300 feet of fiber per minute.

 

Right now, researchers are interested in bringing this new technology to the medical field. The team’s ultimate goal is to create sensors for paraplegic patients that don’t rub against their skin. Traditional sensors can cause skin irritations that will eventually form sores. This new sensor will have the ability to monitor health stats with it touching the skin. Plus, it’s durable enough to withstand rigorous hospital laundry days.

 

Current tests show the new sensors when embedded into a simple knit hat is not only comfortable but accurate as well. For now, the sensor can only track heartbeats. Researchers are hoping to create more flexible sensors, including ones that can track oxygen levels and pressure in tissues. While it’s being marketed to hospitals, you can imagine the potential this would have on workout gear. Maybe sometime in the future, you won’t have to rely on fit-bands, apps, and smartwatches to let you know how your workout is going.

 

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