Touch and electronic textiles

Ricardo O' Nascimento
7 min readAug 9, 2017
Google Jacquard Project.

I had once more the pleasure to participate at the e-textile summer camp 2017. The event is an annual gathering of professionals and practitioners in electronic textile initiated by the girls from Kobakant.

This year one of the trends was the use of capacitive sensing in textile, and that is the topic of this article.

Admar Schoonen teaching about capacitive sensing during the e-textile summer camp 2017. Photo: Zoe Romano.

Capacitive sensing is the ability to measure a material that is conductive. With this data, you can figure out things like touch, proximity, acceleration, fluid level, humidity, etc. This type of sensing is useful for various things including wearables.

Interactive textiles have been used and investigated by institutions, designers, and artists since long ago. Through out the text, I will introduce some of them. This article is far from a definitive list, and I am counting on your help to make it more complete and available. More on this later now let’s go to the projects!

Interactive jacket by Google and Levis.

One of the most popular projects is the connected Jaquet by Google and Levis. The project Jacquard hit the news with an interactive jacket that allows, with a simple touch on the sleeve, users to wirelessly access their phone and favorite mobile apps to adjust music volume, silence a phone call or get an estimated ETA on their destinations. I decided to put this project first because it got very famous and I get often asked if Google invented this kind of interaction. The Jacquard Project is undoubtedly a great initiative and an important player on the e-textile field, but nope, they did not invent it. People are working in similar things since some years already.

Rehmi and Josh Smith can be seen demonstrating the jackets.

Back in 1997 at MIT Media Lab. Margareth Orth, Rehmi Post, and Joshua Strickon released the Musical jacket. Also a Levis jacket. It consisted of a touch-sensitive MIDI keyboard embroidered directly into the fabric using…

Ricardo O' Nascimento

Ricardo is a Postdoctoral researcher in human and material experiences at the Materials Science Research Centre.