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October 26, 2018

Google patent hints at more smart garments with improved haptic feedback

by John_A

Google’s wearable efforts may be a little hit-or-miss, but the company continues to work hard on developing wearable tech that can be used in everyday life. In fact, Google has been awarded a patent related to providing haptic feedback to users while wearing an “interactive garment.”

According to the patent, while mobile devices like smartphones aren’t all that easy to integrate into day-to-day life, wearable solutions like smart clothing are easier. The problem with them, however, is that they can be difficult to manufacture and may lack good functionality. Many of them may provide haptic feedback, but they usually only have one point of haptic feedback, which may or may not be felt by the user. That’s the issue Google is trying to solve here, by instead incorporating multiple vibration motors into a garment to ensure that haptic feedback is felt by the wearer.

Haptic feedback in a smart garment could come in handy for a variety of reasons. For example, it could be used to alert the user of an incoming notification, or it could be used when the user taps on touch-sensitive parts of the smart garment to alert the user to the fact that the input has been received.

The patent notes that the tech could be used in a jacket, shirt, or pants, though it could ultimately end up in any worn garment.

Google is no stranger to the concept of smart garments. Towards the end of last year, in partnership with Levi’s, the company unveiled the Commuter Trucker Jacket, which made use of Google’s Project Jacquard software. The jacket had touch-sensitive sensors built right into it, and allowed wearers to do things like control music playback, get information about their commute, and so on. Project Jacquard mostly uses a plastic sensor in the sleeve, though the patent notes that touch-sensitive surfaces could end up being more integrated into a jacket. It’s possible that the new patent hints at more offerings like Levi’s jacket, though the likes of Google routinely file for patents that they ultimately never end up using.

And, of course, Google has been working hard at further developing its wearable tech offerings, largely through improving Wear OS, its smartwatch operating system.

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