Google and Saint Laurent are making a gesture-enabled smart backpack

Project Jacquard is a bold experiment by Google's ATAP labs that seeks to combine fabric and technology together. Its first creation was the Levi's smart jacket, which featured a smart sleeve for gesture control of your phone, and always seemed like a good—if expensive—idea for those that cycle every day.

For its second wearable, Jacquard collaborated with fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent to create a peek at how technology could be woven into something you're wearing every day: the humble backpack.  

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Dubbed the "CIT-E Backpack," the Jacquard-enabled backpack turns the left strap of the bag into a gesture-based surface for your phone. That allows the wearer to swipe, tap and cover the strap to trigger different actions—without ever pulling out a phone. 

Each gesture can be custom assigned in the Jacquard app to tasks like skipping music, increasing volume, triggering assistant, or even receiving immediate verbal navigation updates. Jacquard also sends push notifications with a small clip at the bottom of the strap, which appears to light up as they come in. 

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The new backpack is also the first time we've seen the new Jacquard tag, which contains the brain of the gesture-based interactions, and pairs with your phone. 

Unlike the Levi's jacket that came before it, the smart tag on this product is co-branded with Saint Laurent's logo and clips into the front of the bag as if it were a normal backpack. The tag sits at the top of the bag, and can be removed for charging or pairing, but otherwise functions as the branding on the backpack as well.

Basically, unless you knew the bag were smart, you wouldn't otherwise notice—and that's a smart play for people who don't want to yell I like computers from what they're wearingIt's not clear yet what the smart features actually look like, with the manual referring to the Project Jacquard app, which hasn't been updated to support the bag yet.

Other than the smart stuff, the bag doesn't have a laptop sleeve inside, but does feature a smartphone holder, zip compartment and padded slot pocket. The bag hasn't been formally announced yet, but it was outed by Google's own ATAP instagram account, which says it's "exclusively available" at Saint Laurent Rive Droite.

So, what does a smart bag cost? Well, given that Saint Laurent is involved and the bag is made in Italy, it starts at a cool €795 ($880)—with estimated shipping starting on October 15. That's an expensive bag—though notably, the backpack without Jacquard retails for €695, so it isn't the tech driving the price up so much as the YSL brand.

Pre-orders are available over at YSL, but it's only available if you live in Europe. 


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By Owen Williams

Owen is an independent technology journalist with a background in software development and helping people understand the industry. Based in the Netherlands, Owen writes a weekly column for Medium's OneZero, and was previously Editor at The Next Web and Digital Director at VanMoof. 

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