Denim Goes Digital: What’s In It for Gamification?

The first piece of clothing with a beta test is now a fact. Wearable Tech has just become more wearable with an interactive denim jacket from Levi’s and Google. But is the conductive yarn weaved into the fabric just another thread binding us to the World Wide Web, increasing our addiction and dependency on technology and our exposure to marketers? Or does it give the sustainable fashion movement a chance to get an edge over ‘fast fashion’ by gamifying public awareness and our social and environmental responsibility?


An iconic partnership

How ironic that denim, the very textile that was designed to withstand the worst tear and wear, is the first to become touch-sensitive! Yet, at the same time, how appropriate for the world’s most democratic fabric to bring the digital revolution to fashion.

Google and Levi’s recently presented the Commuter™ Trucker Jacket with Jacquard technology and announced its release in 2017 after a period of beta-testing starting this year. The jacket is an existing model designed for urban cyclists. Digital connectivity is provided through a touch-sensitive area on the sleeve and a detachable smart tag that connects to your phone via Bluetooth. A tap or a swipe can increase the volume of your phone, ask for directions, accept or reject incoming calls.

Jacquard LevisCollage photos from Google ATAP.


Gamification potential

The best thing about the digitized jacket is that it is not an instance of self-serving technological advancement but has a very specific functionality and purpose which are relevant and useful to its target group – urban cyclists.

Thus the essential precondition for good gamification is already in place: purpose and intrinsic motivation to use the product.

It’s only natural to expand on this adding Gabe Zichermann’s famous Three F’s – Feedback, Friends, and Fun – and to start building a Jacquard Commuter Community.

The jacket can collect points, connect and compete with other users based on times worn, miles and routes covered, respect for speed limit and other traffic regulations, etc. Needless to say, for safety reasons, all of these would be accessible only in off-bike mode which would add more interactive functionalities and uses.

Most interestingly from an environmental perspective, the digitized track record of the commuter jacket can, for example, be shown to progressively improve the overall eco footprint of its owner as measured by a connected app.


Project Jacquard

Jacquard is presented by Google as a cost-efficient and accessible technology that can easily be integrated into existing production facilities. The conductive yarn can be weaved into any fabric and any part of the garment. Moreover, the platform will be open to developers for addition of new apps and services.

“Jacquard is a blank canvas for the fashion industry. Designers can use it as they would any fabric, adding new layers of functionality to their designs, without having to learn about electronics.” (Google ATAP)

So now it is up to fashion designers and brands to play with this ‘canvas’ and come up with new uses for touch and gesture interactivity in our clothes.

As a passionate believer in gamification I am of course particularly interested in any integration of game mechanics and playful design. But as an environmentally and socially responsible citizen I also hope marketers will not be the only ones to ride this wave, adding another source of commercial static noise to our daily infoxication.


Check back soon  for our next article, ‘What Do You Want Your Smart Clothes to Do for You’, where we will explore other existing and potential wearable tech projects in the fashion industry and how gamification can be used by the sustainable fashion movement in its battle against unbridled consumerism.


Feature image: Triple Elvis, Andy Warhol, Saatchi Gallery.


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