Clothes can correct sitting position? MIT’s Black Tech is coming!
Do you slouch at your desk? Or drag your feet when you walk? Soon, you might be able to wear a vest or a pair of socks that can sense your body’s movements and gently nudge you to improve your posture.
Smart wearable technology has come a long way since Apple Watch entered the game. MIT seems to have worked further by making its electronic clothing. The university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL)program has developed apparel that tracks your body’s movements with “tactile electronics” to gather data about people’s body movements and predict performance. This could be useful in a variety of settings, including athletic training, monitoring the health of elderly patients, and identifying whether someone has fallen over.
A key advantage of the design is that, unlike many existing wearable electronics, theirs can be incorporated into traditional large-scale clothing production. Much of the wearable tech on the market is embedded with hundreds of sensors, very often, a few of which don’t work ineffectively as the material moves and interacts with the body, leading to inaccurate data. To fix this, the team developed a self-correcting mechanism that uses a self-supervised machine learning algorithm to recognize and adjust when certain sensors in the design are off base.
The researchers have developed a range of prototypes, from socks and gloves to a full vest. Their socks predict motion by looking at how different sequences of tactile footprints correlate to different poses as the user transitions from one pose to another. The full-sized vest can also detect the wearers’ pose, activity, and the texture of the contacted surfaces.
The machine-knitted tactile textiles are soft, stretchable, breathable, and can take a wide range of forms. On the surface, the new material feels like any other knitted fabric, like wool or acrylic. The sensors are embedded at the fiber level and then woven to create yarn. This yarn is then knitted into textiles that are designed to be soft, stretchy, and comfortable, so the wearer moves naturally while wearing the garment.
With the ‘smart clothes’, a coach can analyze people’s postures and give suggestions on improvement. It could also be used by an experienced athlete to record their posture so that beginners can learn from them.
In the long term, robots might be trained to learn how to do different activities using data from the wearables. As the machines are tactilely blind, the addition of this pressure-sensing technology would give robots a sensation comparable to having human skin, enabling them to perform more sophisticated tasks.
采写:实习生 郭文伊 南都记者 蒋模婷