Photo credit: Irmandy Wicaksono/MIT Media Lab
MIT researchers have developed 3DKnITS, a smart fabric / textile that conforms to a person’s body to sense their posture and motions. It incorporates a special type of plastic yarn that has been exposed to heat to slightly melt it, resulting in greatly improved precision of the pressure sensors woven into multilayered knit textiles.
The thermoforming process was then used create a “smart” shoe as well as mat before hardware and software system were built to interpret data from the pressure sensors in real-time. The machine-learning system was able to predict motions and yoga poses performed by an individual standing on the smart textile mat with approximately 99% accuracy. Future applications include producing smart shoes that track the gait of someone learning to walk again after an injury or socks that measure pressure on a diabetic’s foot to prevent ulcer formation. For something that can be used in Batman’s cape, you’ll want this smart chain mail-like fabric that stiffens on demand.
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Some of the early pioneering work on smart fabrics happened at the Media Lab in the late ’90s. The materials, embeddable electronics, and fabrication machines have advanced enormously since then. It’s a great time to see our research returning to this area, for example through projects like Irmandy’s — they point at an exciting future where sensing and functions diffuse more fluidly into materials and open up enormous possibilities.”