News, Technology, Wearables

Google’s Smart Backpack Lets You Control Your Smartphone With Simple Hand Gestures

Siim Pettai

Siim Pettai, Writer

The smart backpack is the latest addition to Google’s Project Jacquard collection of products.

Five years ago, Google introduced Project Jacquard – a system that integrates technology into fabric. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this technology,  Jacquard takes ordinary clothing items, such as sneakers or a jacket, and enhances them with touch sensitivity. The system allows users to, for example, touch their jacket sleeve to skip a song, or take a picture by double tapping their shoulder strap. The technology is powered by a small dongle, which is placed on the clothing item. The dongle syncs with the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth. It also features a small vibration motor and can be charged via a mini-USB port.

© Samsonite

The Konnect-i smart backpack, launched in collaboration with Samsonite, is the fourth addition to Google’s existing portfolio of Jacquard-powered garments. The collection already includes a smart insole developed with adidas, a Levi’s smart jacket, and a $1000 Yves Saint Laurent luxury backpack.

To access the backpack’s digital capabilities, owners first have to connect it to their smartphone. This can be done by placing the thumb-sized dongle onto the backpack’s strap. Then, through the Jacquard app, wearers can define what brushing up, brushing down and double tapping the strap does. It is possible to assign these three hand gestures to different media controls, such as skipping a song, hearing the current time, getting directions or activating the Google Assistant. It is also possible to do selfies using one of these three hand gestures.

According to Google, the dongle also has a built-in LED, which can be lit up to remain visible during the night. The LED will also light up when someone calls, or when you receive a text message.

In comparison to the $1000 Saint Laurent backpack, the Samsonite Konnect-i is more pocket-friendly. For $200, you can get the slim version, whereas the standard edition costs $220. The only real difference between the two versions is that the slim version features a vertical zipper and the standard version a horizontal one. Both versions are made with water-resistant polyester material. So if you are going outside in a rainstorm, you won’t have to worry about the rain messing up the technology.

In terms of storage, the Konnect-i backpack is as practical as any other backpack. It has tons of pockets, and there’s more than enough room to fit in a 15-inch laptop.

According to Google, the backpack is targeted at business travelers. It’s definitely weird timing by Google, considering today’s circumstances. And considering the limited capabilities, the price is quite high. For the same price, you can get a smartwatch that is capable of doing the same things, and then some. 

However, depending on your lifestyle, the backpack could still be useful when riding a bike to work, or going on a hike. Whether it’s worth a $200 investment, is up for you to decide.

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