A novel smart textile that turns garments into active motion sensors has been developed by Cambridge Science Park-based Cambridge Consultants.
XelfleX is a novel type of ‘smart’ textile that turns garments into active motion sensors. It can be used to make comfortable, washable, robust clothing – and gives users information not available from existing wearables.
Until now, smart fabrics have had multiple electronic sensors – making them cumbersome and sensitive to moisture.
What makes XelfleX different is its fibre-optic thread acts as the sensor – making a garment inherently smart. The only addition required is a small electronics pack which clips on to the fibre – in a pocket, for example – and communicates with a smartphone.
The technology could be used for fitness and sports coaching – to help perfect a tennis serve, golf swing or ski technique, for example. It could also be used as part of physiotherapy to help patients recover after injury, surgery or neurological problems. Or it could be used for motion capture for gaming, film making and virtual reality applications, thanks to its ability to make multiple accurate angle measurements.
Cambridge Consultants’ Martin Brock, XelfleX’s inventor, said: “Our aim was to create wearables that people actually want to wear. 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.”
XelfleX builds on Cambridge Consultants’ experience in industrial fibre-optic sensors and low-cost impulse radar. When a pulse of light is transmitted down an optical fibre, a very well-defined amount of light is scattered continuously along its length. Bending the fibre results in increased scattering and reflection, which can then be measured.
“XelfleX demonstrates the benefits of our ‘cross-fertilisation’ of technology between very different sectors – it’s at the intersections between industries that innovation often happens,” said Brock.