MIT’s New ‘Smart Clothes’ Will Know Every Move You Make

Matthew Hart
·2 min read

Whether it’s a good or bad thing, a boatload of sensors are attempting to invade and cover our bodies. Vaccination tattoos are in development, for example, and we all know what Elon Musk wants to do with our brains. Now, MIT researchers have invented something less invasive, but still spooky. “Smart clothes” that sense and record your movements so they can give you posture suggestions. Or collect extensive data for robot training…

MIT researchers have invented "smart clothes" that are able to track their wearer's every movement.
MIT researchers have invented "smart clothes" that are able to track their wearer's every movement.

MIT / Yiyue Luo et al.

Design Taxi picked up on the new smart clothes, which the researchers described in a paper recently published in the journal Nature Electronics. The team, which is a part of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (or CSAIL), says the project was inspired by a growing interest in wearable electronics and smart garments. As well as an increasing demand for digitally fabricating so-called “sensing textiles.”

As the video below shows, the smart clothes are made of knitted conductive yarn, and can be mass produced. To make a given garment, researchers develop its design in a computer program, knit it with an industrial machine, and then plug into it various electronic pressure sensors. These can read whether a wearer is standing on their toes, or if they’re hunched over, for instance.

The researchers outline various functions for the smart clothes, which help connect wearers with computers, or collect data. The researchers’ smart gloves, for example, can serve as computer controllers. And their smart socks can record the movements of a wearer’s feet. (We assume that may help with assessing podiatric issues, although that’s unclear.) There’s also potential for caretakers to use the clothes to monitor the elderly.

The most interesting uses for the smart clothes, however, have to do with robots. Not only do the researchers say that recording all of our bodies’ movements would help to train robots how to move, but that the clothes could also serve as their artificial skin, covering them with an array of sensors, much like our nerves.

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This makes it seem like robots will be bathing in sensors as much as we humans, having every one of their movements tracked too. And while we’re not sure if that makes the future more or less disturbing, at least we’ll all be cozy together.

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