Fiber-in-textile turns clothes in to motion sensors

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

The XelfleX technology can be used to make robust, washable clothing that can be used to gain body motion information from sports, fitness and medical rehabilitation and for gaming, film making and virtual reality creation.

Most attempts at body motion capture in recent times have been addressed by applying inertial motion sensors with wireless communications at key points of the body, usually through wearing a specialized suit. And despite the increased miniaturization of MEMS sensors this has involved cumbersome electronics and electronics that could not be put in the washing machine.

The XelfleX uses fiber-optic thread as the sensor. It requires a single electronics pack that clips on to the fiber – in a pocket for example – and communicates wirelessly with a smartphone. The pack disconnects when the garment needs to be washed.

XelfleX works on the principle that when a pulse of light is transmitted down an optical fiber, a well-defined amount of light is scattered continuously along its length. Bending the fiber results in increased scattering and reflection, which can then be measured.

By integrating the fiber into a close-fitting garment, the movement of a joint can change the amount of bending at a defined sensor point in the fiber. Up to 10 sensors are possible along each fiber – with the initial light pulse sent by an LED in the electronics pack. Algorithms then turn the results from the sensors into guidance that users can easily understand, giving feedback on their posture and movement, and coaching them on how to improve.

"Our aim was to create wearables that people actually want to wear," said XelfleX inventor Martin Brock, of Cambridge Consultants. "XelfleX demonstrates the benefits of our cross-fertilization of technology between very different sectors – it’s at the intersections between industries that innovation often happens," said Brock.

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating XelfleX, together with other at the 2015 International CES, January 6 to 9, in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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