Saturday, October 27, 2007

E-textiles to monitor your health

New way to measure health and injury ...

"Virginia Tech researchers have been busy developing efficient e-textiles — electronic textiles and clothing with embedded wires and sensors — for six years now. Their computerized clothing can monitor your movements, sensing if you’re walking, running, standing, or sitting down. Of course, this kind of clothing has a wide range of applications. The Hokie Suit, which exists for 3 years, will lead to other garments which could measure when you’re about to fall and your location, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and a variety of other statistics. As the researchers have been focused more on computer engineering than aesthetics, don’t expect to find e-clothing available in retail stores before several years.

... Before going further, what are e-textiles? Here is the definition given by the E-Textile Research Group. “Electronic textiles (e-textiles) are fabrics that have electronics and interconnections woven into them, with physical flexibility and size that cannot be achieved with existing electronic manufacturing techniques. Components and interconnections are intrinsic to the fabric and thus are less visible and not susceptible to becoming tangled together or snagged by the surroundings. An e-textile can be worn in everyday situations where currently available wearable computers would hinder the user. E-textiles can also more easily adapt to changes in the computational and sensing requirements of an application, a useful feature for power management and context awareness.”

Now that we know exactly what are e-textiles, it’s time to look at what the researchers did. “One of the primary pieces they have built, dubbed the Hokie Suit, can sense the gait of the person wearing it, and is then able to detect change in speed and direction of motion. The wearer is able to move around naturally in the suit and the wires and sensors are woven in as part of the fabric. The sensors can then be removed and the suit with the wires can be washed. The steel used in the suit is so lightweight and fluid that it appears as fabric material rather than metal. ‘We can tell whether you’re walking, running, standing, or sitting down,’ Martin said. ‘One student could even figure out what dance you were doing.’”

And the data collected by the sensors embedded in the fabrics can be sent to various computer devices, such as a monitor checked by someone taking care of your health. This sounds good, even if we don’t see this kind of clothing in our regular stores before years. Anyway, the researchers are already working on Hokie Suit 2.0. “They’re making a more tightly woven garment in the form of a jumpsuit so it can be worn more easily. The jumpsuit has more benefits than the pants and vest; for example, it can sense when a person is laying down. The pants in the Hokie Suit were unable to tell the difference between lying down and having legs propped up."    (Continued via ZDNet)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Hokie Suit - Ergonomics

Hokie Suit

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