Smart clothing doesn't have to mean dresses covered in LEDs. It can be much more useful than that. The futuristic smart fabric XelfleX is a superb example of a wearable that doesn't involve strapping gadgets to your body.
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Designed by inventor Martin Brock, at the UK-based R&D company Cambridge Consultants, XelfleX's fibre-optic thread acts as a motion sensor to track the wearer's movements. So how does it work? An initial pulse is sent by an LED. Then with up to ten sensors possible along each fibre, when a joint is moved this impacts on the amount of light scattering and reflecting at defined sensor points.
All that is needed to relay this information to a smartphone or computer is a small 'electronics pack' that sends the pulse and clips onto the fibre. Algorithms turn this data into guidance on movement and posture which is designed to provide detailed feedback to athletes, perfecting a tennis serve or golf swing, or physiotherapy patients recovering from injury.
As you might have guessed from its Morph suit appearance, Cambridge Consultants also say a XelfleX suit could be a great fit for motion capture for film, gaming and VR.
“With XelfleX, the garment itself is the sensor and it allows you to create smart clothing that is low-cost, durable, useful and attractive to wear," said Martin Brock. “We’ve combined our extensive experience in wearable technology with our deep knowledge of industrial sensing and control to come up with a smart system design for a new generation of wearables.”