Story at a glance
- Researchers are weaving motion sensor technology into fabrics.
- This can be useful for many reasons, from analyzing someone’s gait to measuring how well they can turn their torso.
- A new study looks into how seam placement could be used in garments to track movement.
A scientific innovation has brought the possibility of building technology into clothing, with some researchers looking for ways to analyze people’s movement for medical diagnoses. Other groups are interested in capturing movement data for a variety of reasons, including fitness tracking. A new study examines how the placement of seams in a piece of clothing could enhance movement tracking.
A group of researchers at the University of Bath use conductive yarn in an upper body garment.
“There are lots of potential applications for conductive yarn in any activity where you want to identify and improve the quality of a person's movement,” said Olivia Ruston, a doctoral student at the University of Bath, in a press release. “This could be very helpful in physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and sports performance.”
One of the goals of the study was to determine the optimal stitch types and seam placements for detecting body movement with the conductive yarn.
“Our aim is to demonstrate that, if configured, designed, positioned and calibrated correctly, seams provide an opportunity to measure and classify a wide range of body movement,” the team wrote in their paper.
Ruston and collaborators created a garment that is sewn together with conductive yarn. This means that the yarn is worked in the seams of the garment and then connected to a microcontroller. The material is activated at low voltages, and the resistance fluctuates with body movement that affects the tension in the garment.
The study’s findings suggest that seam stretching can provide a better signal than seam compression. Seams on the back of a garment are important for detecting torso movement and twisting. The authors think that optimized seam placement on a garment for the upper body would be able to distinguish between different types of movement, like yoga positions.
Ruston said, “There's great potential to exploit the wearing of clothing and tech -- a lot of people are experimenting with e-textiles, but we don't have a coherent understanding between technologists and fashion designers, and we need to link these groups up so we can come up with the best ideas for embedding tech into clothing.”
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