"If you can replace some of the yarns in the textile with conductive yarns, you can weave multi-touch controls," said Poupyrev. "You can weave interactive devices. If you make garments out of textiles, you would not call it a wearable, you would call it a jacket. We want to move beyond novelty. We want it to scale so everybody can make them and everybody can buy them."
The sensor fibers are indistinguishable to the human eye from regular fibers and have built-in connectivity. That allows for access to a network as well as other devices, Poupyrev said.
To show off the technology, he brought out a piece of cloth. As he waved his hand over it or made a swiping motion, a screen nearby showed the sensors reacting to the motion.
"We don't expect these textiles to replace everything," said Poupyrev. "But if you can use broad gestures of your hands to control something, you have such broad control."
He noted that Google engineers took their smart fabric to tailors on London's well-known Savile Row, where it was made into a nice-looking smart jacket.
Poupyrev showed how, with a swipe of his hand over the sleeve, he could control his phone -- and even make a call.
The jacket, Google noted, is 85% cotton and 15% Project Jacquard material.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.