If day one of Google I/O was dedicated to the changes in technology happening today, then day two showcased the cool technology of the future. ATAP, Google's research and development unit, presented its wacky ideas to the world, the strangest of which was the idea of a computer made from fabric.

With Project Jacquard, ATAP is developing a futuristic touch-sensitive fabric that could be used as a computer screen, and on Friday, Levi's announced that it plans on incorporating the technology into a pair of jeans. Project Jacquard is named after Joseph Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the power loom.

"We've got the genius pirates at ATAP, who can help us develop and deliver this platform," Paul Dillinger of Levi Strauss announced on the Google I/O stage. "If there's a chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world while maintaining eye contact with the person we're eating dinner with, this is a real value. If we can deliver that value in the form of clothes that you, as friends and fans of this brand already love, that is a project worth doing."

So, how does the Project Jacquard fabric work? The ATAP team has designed yarns based on a metallic alloy it has woven together with traditional fabrics. It then created a two-layer fabric with electronics in between like the meat in a sandwich. The electronics are then connected to the threads of metallic fabric in the clothing.

This all amounts to a touch-sensitive fabric. Google has a working prototype fabric on display at the conference in San Francisco. According to The Verge, the fabric reacts to taps and swipes, just like a touchscreen. It can switch on light bulbs or draw lines on a monitor that it is connected to.The technology would work for different types of fabrics as well, so it won't be confined just to jeans.

Dillinger didn't say exactly when we can expect a touchscreen-enabled pair of 501s to hit the market, but the fact that it's in the pipeline is pretty exciting. If you can have a smart screen on your watch, why not have one on your pants?

Photo: Michael Carian | Flickr

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