Today's younger generation is getting quite accustomed to the idea of electronic apparel. There are jeans with built-in keyboards, t-shirts that can recharge phones, vibrating suits that help improve athletic performance and glasses that augment reality. But older folks need not feel left out. Wearable computers are being developed to monitor health and improve rehabilitation.
Take this device, developed by a
group of Italian researchers led by Michelangelo Bartolo. It's a kind of lightweight corset equipped
with battery-powered sensors that monitor the way the wearer moves and send the data via Bluetooth to a computer.
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This kind of intelligent biomedical clothing, the researchers say in their paper, could give doctors a better look at what the
muscles in the trunk are doing during therapy. Those muscles are important to
balance and even limb movement.
The team presented their work in the journal BioMedical Engineering
The sensors are made from stretchy conducting materials called conductive
elastomers. They are piezoelectric, so they generate current whenever they're bent
or stretched, and they're printed onto the fabric, keeping it lightweight. The garment itself zips up
the front and has velcro strips on the side to adjust for different body sizes. A
set of suspenders holds it up over the shoulders.
scientists had a subject move around in the corset, and then gathered data that showed it was possible to monitor movement and exercise while it was being worn. It won't
provide high-precision measurement, but it's enough to see whether a patient
is moving and the direction they are bending and flexing in. That's likely good
enough for most physical therapists — who will have better data and know if a person is doing the exercises correctly.
Image: Paolo Tormene