Last month the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Google that revealed one of their latest inventions relating to an all-new gesture control system designed specifically to work with future smart garments like an office or ski jacket, sporting cap or jersey, shirts, purses and specific objects. The invention is focused on interactive textiles and the gestures that could be used to assist consumers interact with devices that are currently in their purse, jacket or jean pocket. For instance, if a user is listening to their music and they want or need to stop it, fast forward it or control the volume quickly, the user will only have to tap their garment in a particular manner and the smartphone would react immediately saving the user time scrambling to pull out their device just to execute a single function.
According to Google, an interactive textile includes a grid of conductive thread woven into the interactive textile to form a capacitive touch sensor that is configured to detect touch-input.
The interactive textile can process the touch-input to generate touch data that is usable to initiate functionality at various remote devices that are wirelessly coupled to the interactive textile such an smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, eyewear, and far beyond.
For instance, the interactive textile may aid users in controlling volume on a stereo or pausing a movie playing on a television, or selecting a webpage on a desktop computer. Due to the flexibility of textiles, the interactive textile may be easily integrated within flexible objects, such as clothing, handbags, fabric casings, hats, and so forth.
In one or more implementations, the interactive textile includes a top textile layer and a bottom textile layer. Conductive threads are woven into the top textile layer and the bottom textile layer. When the top textile layer is combined with the bottom textile layer, the conductive threads from each layer form a capacitive touch sensor that is configured to detect touch-input. The bottom textile layer is not visible and couples the capacitive touch sensor to electronic components, such as a controller, a wireless interface, an output device (e.g., an LED, a display, or speaker), and so forth.
In one or more implementations, the conductive thread of the interactive textile includes a conductive core that includes at least one conductive wire and a cover layer constructed from flexible threads that covers the conductive core. The conductive core may be formed by twisting one or more flexible threads (e.g., silk threads, polyester threads, or cotton threads) with the conductive wire, or by wrapping flexible threads around the conductive wire. In one or more implementations, the conductive core is formed by braiding the conductive wire with flexible threads (e.g., silk). The cover layer may be formed by wrapping or braiding flexible threads around the conductive core. In one or more implementations, the conductive thread is implemented with a "double-braided" structure in which the conductive core is formed by braiding flexible threads with a conductive wire, and then braiding flexible threads around the braided conductive core.
In one or more implementations, a gesture manager is implemented at a computing device that is wirelessly coupled to the interactive textile. The gesture manager enables the user to create gestures and assign the gestures to various functionalities of the computing device. The gesture manager can store mappings between the created gestures and the functionalities in a gesture library to enable the user to initiate a functionality, at a subsequent time, by inputting a gesture assigned to the functionality into the interactive textile.
In one or more implementations, the gesture manager is configured to select a functionality based on both a gesture to the interactive textile and a context of the computing device. The ability to recognize gestures based on context enables the user to invoke a variety of different functionalities using a subset of gestures. For example, for a first context, a first gesture may initiate a first functionality, whereas for a second context, the same first gesture may initiate a second functionality.
Google's patent FIG. 15 noted below illustrates implementation examples 1500 of interacting with an interactive textile and an output device. More specifically, in image #1502 below, textile controller #204 causes a light source to flash on the sleeve on an individual with a garment made with interactive textiles. It will flash at a specific frequency to indicate to a user that a notification is being received by their smartphone, be it a text message, email or a phone call you have on silence because you're in a meeting.
In image #1504 below, the user places their hand over the interactive textile to cover the interactive textile. This "cover" gesture may be mapped to a variety of different functionalities. For example, this gesture may be used to silence a call or to accept a call. In response, the light source can be controlled to provide feedback that the gesture is recognized, such as by turning off when the call is silenced.
In image #1506 below, the user taps the touch sensor with a single finger to initiate a different functionality. For example, the user may be able to place one finger on the touch sensor to listen to a voicemail through a wireless headset.
Google patent FIG. 10C above illustrates an example of generating a control based on touch-input corresponding to a two-finger touch gesture; FIG. 10D illustrates an example of generating a control based on touch-input corresponding to a swipe up gesture.
Google's patent FIG. 3 below is a basic overview of an interactive textile system; FIG. 4a below .illustrates an example of a conductive core for a conductive thread
Google's FIG. 6 above illustrates an example of a two-layer interactive textile and FIG. 7 illustrates a more-detailed view of a second textile layer of a two-layer interactive textile.
Google's patent FIG. 13 noted below illustrates an example of contextual-based gestures to an interactive textile (click to enlarge image).
In Google's patent FIG. 12 noted below we're able to see an example of a gesture library. Users will be able to assign drawn letters on an interactive textile to a specific action that the user wants to trigger on their smartphone (or other device).
Google filed their patent application back in December 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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