Samsonite has debuted two new Konnect-i backpacks, one standard-sized for $230 and one slim-sized option for $200, each equipped with Google’s Jacquard technology that can make fabric respond to your touch.
The technology is employed in the same way as in the $880 Yves Saint Laurent Cit-E backpack: a fabric module on the left shoulder strap (made easy to find by parallel lines of raised paint) is sensitive to your touch, allowing you to assign actions to gestures. They’re both available through Samsonite’s web shop.
Once you charge up the Jacquard module with the included micro USB cable, you slide it into place over the pins on the shoulder strap. It vibrates the bag when it’s correctly installed and is restrained with some fabric to keep it in place. You then use the Jacquard app for iOS or Android to configure what sort of actions you’d like to assign to four gestures: brush up, brush down, double tap, and cover.
If you read my colleague Dieter Bohn’s hands-on with the Levi’s Trucker jean jacket, you likely already know the gist of it. You can assign fairly predictable tasks to the gestures, like to play/pause or skip tracks, or to pick up phone calls. On the backpack, Jacquard is far more customizable than it is in something like the Adidas GMR insoles that use Jacquard to turn your real-life movement activity into in-game rewards in FIFA Mobile.
There are some clever tasks available through the Jacquard app, but unless you’re biking or driving a scooter or moped, most of them register as being superfluous for other uses, like casual walking. For instance, you can set the LED on the Jacquard module to flash in an array of colors when you use a gesture. This seems especially useful for staying visible to cars at night. You can set a gesture to drop a pin in Google Maps for when you see a cool thing or place during your travels. It can also ping your phone to tell you what the next direction is on your way to a destination.
If you have Bose headphones connected to your phone via Bluetooth, you can assign the ability to toggle noise cancellation to a gesture. But is this actually easier than reaching up to tap a button on your headphones? It’s questions like these that start to poke holes in the practicality of Jacquard. It’s certainly neat, but it won’t be useful for everyone.
I tested the standard Konnect-i backpack, which is the larger of the two. It has a rounder profile that protrudes more than the Peak Design Everyday Backpack that I usually use — well, used to use when I had somewhere to go. Importantly, though, the Konnect-i isn’t too big, and it doesn’t feel like Samsonite made concessions on comfort and storage space — or price — in its quest to add Google’s Jacquard tech to the bag.
There are a ton of pockets and dividers within to keep smaller doo-dads organized. Overall, there’s enough room for what seems like a week’s worth of clothes rolled up, along with a dedicated section with sufficient padding for a 15-inch laptop. There’s also a generous number of side and front pockets for easy access to keys, accessories, and the like. Both sizes are crafted with a water-repelling polyester with Teflon backing, according to Samsonite.
It’s not uncommon to spend upwards of $200 on a nice bag for gadgets and other uses anyway. Getting some interesting (if a bit gimmicky) touch functionality on top of what seems like an otherwise durable and capacious backpack from Samsonite is just a perk. And depending on your lifestyle, you might get something out of it.