Google's making a smart headphone cable that can control your music

Google Smart Braid
Google Smart Braid (Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • The helical sensing matrix (HSM) using E-textiles are currently in the prototype phase.
  • Interactions can be done via pinching, sliding, twisting, and other ways to control various devices and programs
  • Fiber optic strands can be woven into the fabric to give visual feedback through light.

Google has been experimenting with fabrics for a while — remember the Project Jacquard jacket from Levi? Not to mention all of the fabrics that have made their way into the lineup of smart speakers and phone cases. Now, Google is looking at ways to add media and other controls to fabric-wrapped cords.

In a post to the Google AI Blog, prototypes for a helical sensing matrix (HSM) using E-textiles are shown off. HSM is essentially braided fabric with "smart threads" woven in that contain capacitive characteristics — meaning you can touch the cord to make things happen on your devices.

Google Smart Braid Controls

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Thinking of something like the cord for a speaker or your headphones, by making that cord "smart" you'll be able to do things like twist the cord to control volume, pinch it to pause/play, or double pinch to skip tracks. These are use cases being thought of in ways to incorporate these new fabrics. As an added flair, as well as giving some feedback when touched, fiber optic threads can be woven in to light up based on the input received.

Google Smart Braid Fiber Optics

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Currently, in a prototype phase, these HSM fabrics are being tested with headphones, hoodie drawstrings, and a speaker cord. Though the initial testing ideas are being thought of for media controls, though this type of idea can be expanded to controls for other devices, too.

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Chris Wedel
Senior Editor - Smart Home
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, he enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.
6 Comments
  • Seems gimmicky but I'm interested lol
  • Wonder what the Venn diagram would look like for "people who still use wired headphones" and "people who would be interested in this". I suspect it would be very close to two totally distinct circles lol.
  • Does that mean the Pixel 6 is getting a head phone jack?
  • Are Google going for gimmicks instead of the more important features that make up a good phone?
  • Cords are so 2015.
  • Neat stuff. But a bit late for today's market IMO.