While many have moved on to wireless earbuds in recent years, Google is experimenting with something new. Google’s experimental “I/O smart braid” uses a fabric cord to send controls to a connected smartphone all through the cable on headphones.

Detailed in a blog post (via the Verge), Google explains that the “smart braid” uses a “helix sensing matrix” to detect different commands from users using gestures on the fabric cord itself. For example, a single tap handles play/pause, a double-tap to skip tracks, or a twist to adjust the volume.

The fabric cable is interwoven with capacitive and conductive yarns that allow the cable to detect these gestures from any angle or part of the cable. In the example of headphones, that could add a benefit over traditional in-line remotes since those are limited to only a small portion of the cable. Google collected data from volunteers to help train the machine learning model that differentiates between different types of gestures on the cable. Fiber optics are also built into the cable, which provides visual feedback for the commands.

This braid is just a research project for the time being, with headphones being one very obvious example of how it could be implemented into a consumer product. Another example includes touch-sensitive drawstrings on a hoodie that control your music on a smartphone. Another example, shown below, could use this for a speaker’s power cable.

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