For almost $1,000, you could be controlling your smartphone just by tapping the strap of your backpack.
In 2015, Google revealed it was working on a project aimed at making your clothes and accessories smarter by experimenting with touch-sensitive fabric technology. Two years later, the tech giant partnered with Levi's to reveal the first results of those experiments, a $350 "connected" jean jacket featuring multi-touch sensors allowing the wearer to answer phone calls or get directions simply by tapping on the sleeve.
Now, Google's "Project Jacquard" is back with another fashion collaboration — this time it's a partnership with French luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent on a smart backpack with smart touch sensors in the strap to allow the wearer to access a connected smartphone. Much like the smart jean jacket, the sleek black backpack's sensor can be tapped or swiped to issue commands to your smartphone, such as lowering the volume on your music, receive a text message, or accessing Google Maps.
The backpack can pair with any Android or Apple iOS smartphone via the Jacquard mobile app, which also allows the user to change the settings to decide the corresponding command for various gestures, from brushing down on the backpack strap to double-tapping the strap or covering it with your hand, according to an instruction manual posted online by Yves Saint Laurent.
Meanwhile, the bag itself is black nylon with a canvas lining and padded straps (the removable smart touch sensor is located in the backpack's left strap). The backpack's interior also features multiple internal pockets, including one for a phone and a larger, padded pocket that could fit a laptop or tablet.
As for the hefty price tag, it's in line with Yves Saint Laurent's other high-end luxury accessories. The fashion house sells similar canvas and nylon backpacks (without the Google-powered touch sensors) for nearly $900, while other backpacks and bags in leather skin are available on the brand's site for over $2,000 apiece.
In 2017, Google and Levi's marketed the smart jacket to bicycle commuters who might want to easily answer a call or skip to the next song while riding without having to take out their phone. The tech blog Engadget notes that the same idea could make the Cit-E backpack attractive to city commuters "who don't want to dig out their handset while standing on the subway."
That being said, the $350 smart Levi's jacket received mixed reviews two years ago. Business Insider's Amir Ismael wrote that the jacket "made my commute so much better," while The Verge's Nick Statt wrote that the jacket "is just not a super useful piece of technology," mainly because the reviewer felt the jacket only effectively performed "minor tricks" that didn't justify the $350 price tag.
With the Cit-E backpacks still in the pre-order phase, potential buyers will have to wait for product reviews. However, there does already seem to be interest in the backpack among Yves Saint Laurent's Instagram followers, as nearly 10,000 people have already "liked" the brand's post teasing the release of the backpack on Wednesday.
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