Google Smart Braid Fiber OpticsSource: 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 ControlsSource: 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 OpticsSource: 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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