Innovation is continuing to fascinate us by introducing mesmerizing products. The latest reports suggest MIT has come up with a novel fabrication process to produce smart textiles that can snugly conform to physical requirements by sensing the posture and motion of the wearer.
Combining a special kind of plastic yarn and utilizing heat to melt it slightly through a process known as thermoforming, the researchers massively improved the accuracy of pressure sensors woven inside the multi-layered knit textiles, called the 3DKnITS.
The process was used to produce a ‘smart’ shoe and mats before building a software and hardware system for measuring and interpreting the data obtained from the pressure sensors in real-time.
The machine-learning system anticipated yoga poses and motions performed by the individual standing on the mat with nearly 99 percent accuracy.
The process uses the digital knitting technology at a whole new level enabling rapid prototyping, which can be easily scaled up for manufacturing at a large scale as per Irmandy Wicaksono, an MIT Media Lab research assistant and the lead author for the paper presenting the 3DKnITS.
The technique can also be pretty valuable in rehabilitation and health care. For instance, it can be used to create smart shoes that can track someone’s gait, which is learning to walk after suffering from an injury that impaired their ability, or produce socks that can monitor pressure on the diabetic patient’s foot for the prevention of ulcers.
Wicaksono says, “With digital knitting, you have this freedom to design your patterns and also integrate sensors within the structure itself, so it becomes seamless and comfortable, and you can develop it based on the shape of your body.”
The research with other professors at MIT will be presented at IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Conference.
“Some 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,” Paradiso states. “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.”