Author Archives: Leonardo Giusti

Small gestures, big impact: Google ATAP’s latest work

Google is dedicated to making tech accessible for everyone, and our hardware innovation division, Google ATAP, is working on this as well. As part of a Jacquard (a connected apparel platform) research project, we at ATAP worked closely with members and advocates of the disability community to understand how advanced wearable technologies, like smart textiles, gesture interfaces and on-device AI can help more people.

Earlier this year, we worked with members of Champions Place, a shared living residence for young adults with disabilities, to better understand why existing technologies sometimes fall short of meeting the full needs of people with mobility and dexterity disabilities.

This research inspired us to use Jacquard technology to create a soft, interactive patch or sleeve that allows people to access digital, health and security services with simple gestures. This woven technology can be worn or positioned on a variety of surfaces and locations, adjusting to the needs of each individual. 

We teamed up with Garrison Redd, a Para powerlifter and advocate in the disability community, to test this new idea. 

Garrison’s feedback has been invaluable, and he’s shared some of his favorite functions. “The selfie option is helpful as far as creativity,” Garrison says. “If I’m in the gym and have the armband on I can capture images from a proper angle for my coach and the training staff, without having to wheel into position, which isn’t ideal. So that does increase my independence, which is important for individuals who have disabilities.” He also pointed out areas where we could improve. “It’s important that the surface can be sensitive to one or two fingers for people who may have more needs than I have.”

We hugely benefited from Garrison’s background and expertise, and implemented his feedback into our work. For example, we’re now developing machine learning models for gesture recognition that adapt over time to each person's unique dexterity. This will allow people with different levels of motor disabilities to use simple gestures to do things like call someone, or order a rideshare service. These might seem like incremental steps forward, but as Garrison says, “It’s the small things that make a difference between being dependent and independent.”

Try it on: Connected clothing that helps everyone

Jacquard by Google aims to simplify your digital life by turning everyday things, like sneakers and jackets, into intuitive interfaces. A connected jacket with woven Jacquard technology lets people connect to their smartphone and use simple gestures to trigger functions from the Jacquard app. With this interactivity and connectivity built in, you can tap your sleeve to hear directions to your next destination or brush your cuff to change the song playing on your compatible music service. Jacquard technology works for phones running Android 6.0.1 or newer and iOS 11 or newer.

As a team, we’re motivated to understand how connected garment technology can provide access to digital services in situations where traditional mobile devices are difficult or inconvenient to use. As part of that goal, we started a series of research projects to explore and discover how Jacquard technology can help people with disabilities live more independent lives. 

We worked with Champions Place, a shared living residence for young adults with disabilities in the greater Atlanta area. Residents at Champions Place tried out the Jacquard Levi’s ® Commuter Trucker Jacket and let us know how a connected garment could be even more helpful to each of them. 

We discovered that for the residents at Champions Place a connected jacket gave them a simple and unobtrusive way to access technology on the go. For example, many residents at Champions Place commonly rely on emergency call solutions—usually a device worn around the neck that lets them quickly call for assistance. Those who use these devices imagined how the connected garment could be used as a discreet and less obtrusive alternative while blending into their daily lives. 

Once technology becomes part of the things you wear every day, fashion choices become as important as function. One resident trying out the Jacquard connected jackets admitted, “I am not necessarily a jean jacket person. I am thinking it will be useful that I can have a band that can be slipped on, underneath different sleeves or jackets, that way it is not tied to one piece clothing.” It’s feedback like that, that helps us to explore design solutions that people want to wear. We learned that fashion style and form factors, like a smart jacket or connected patch, matter, and one solution doesn’t fit all. 

Our work with Champions Place has just started. So far, the feedback has helped us envision how technology like Jacquard can help people live more independent lives without sacrificing style. Enhancing everyday objects with digital functionalities can lead to products that are helpful, comfortable, easy-to-use and stylish for everyone — including people with disabilities.

Learn more about Jacquard by Google.