Wearable Tech Digest - June 2017

Drone control suit

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have created a suit that enables the wearer to control a drone’s movement. The drone-control jacket is paired with a VR headset providing a drone-eye view. For instance moving the body to the left makes the drone veer to the left. The drone-control jacket is paired with a VR headset providing a drone-eye view. Tests have shown that people learned to control a drone quicker through using the headset and suit, than not, and were better able to handle stressful situations. The next version of the jacket will provide wearers with haptic feedback to simulate turbulence etc.

Wearables in the restaurant

Buffalo Wings and Rings, a restaurant chain based in Ohio, USA, has trialled wearables to improve customer service and reduce customer waiting time. The solution provided by Samsung was to provide waiters and managers with its Gear S2 smartwatches using the Hipaax Taskwatch Platform. The platform sends prompts to users’ smartwatches when certain tasks need to be performed. The watch it is claimed ensured that waiters greeted guests within 45 seconds of them being seated and alerted them to drinks that needed refilling and even up-selling opportunities. The reminders on the watches lowered table turnover times from 67 to 62 minutes, which allowed the restaurant to serve an additional 10 tables for every 150 tables seated.

Smart Buckle

The Smart Buckle, by Gooseberry, is a device which can be attached to a regular watch strap and monitors calories, distance and step counts among others. The Smart Buckle has a waterproof rating of IP57 meaning it can withstand immersion in water up to 1m deep for 30 minutes. The device can be synced with Google Fit or Apple Health. The buckle’s battery lasts about ten hours and takes an hour to charge.

Material which expands and contracts in relation to heat

Massachusets Institute of Technology’s bioLogic project has developed a piece of clothing that can expand or contract relative to moisture levels. It can do this because it incorporates a bacterium known as Bacillus subtilis natto. The bioLogic project team grow the bacteria in a lab and then assembles them into a synthetic bio-skin using a micron-resolution bio-printing system. The bio-skin, which can be sewn into garments, actuates in reaction to body heat and sweat, causing flaps around heat zones to contract and open and enable heat to escape. bioLogic is working with British sneaker brand New Balance to commercialise the technology.

Qualcomm chip designed for wearables

Qualcomm has released its Snapdragon Wear 1200 platform designed for use in LTE IoT (Cat-M1 or NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things)) devices such as wearables. The chip manufacturer says that the platform should provide wearables with a longer battery life, enable smaller sizes, smarter sensing, constant location information, robust security and constant connection. The platform is 79mm2 which includes a LTE system-on-chip (SoC), power management integrated circuits and wireless receiver, flexibility to add to external sensor hubs and a M1/NB1/E-GPRS modem with support for 15 RF bands.

Movement monitoring shirt

Japanese wearables company Xenoma has released its e-skin – a shirt that carries 14 sensors to track bodily movements such as running, jumping and punching for use in VR, fitness and work environments. The sensors – thin strips forming a web across the shirt – monitor the user’s body movements such as bending, stretching and twisting. Data is transmitted via Bluetooth using the ‘e-skin hub’, a telephone receiver-like device which can be attached to two connectors on the front of the shirt. The shirt can be machine washed.

Colour changing, identifying fibres

MIT’s Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) has developed a fabric that can send messages, tune in to audio signals or change colour. At the grand opening event of the AFFOA and its Fabric Discovery Center it demonstrated some of the use cases for its novel fibres. One was integrating the fibres into backpacks made by JanSport and Inman Mills. Each of the 300 bags on display had a unique digital code woven into its fabric, and could be scanned with a smartphone and information displayed about the bag’s owner. Baseball caps with earphones were also on display – the wearer could listen to audio transmitted via pulses of light from an overhead lamp processed by optical fibre and chips. Another item on display was colour changing clothing – changing colour in reaction to temperature changes.

Brainno: In-ear EEG to help brain health

Brainno is a brain monitoring in-ear wearable device. The wearable measures brain activity with three sensors and heart rate with another one. The sensors then apparently amplify the bio-signals 1000 to 100,000 times which enables the measurement of electroencephalogram (EEG) signals in real-time. This data is then streamed to an app using Bluetooth where it is analysed and provides feedback on ways to maintain optimal brain health. The device has already reached its funding goal on Indiegogo and should be in production in August for shipping in October 2017.

Samsung’s body worn patch for monitoring health cleared by the FCC

Samsung’s S-Patch 3 has been cleared by the USA’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), according to wearable.com and other online sources. The S-Patch 3 was demonstrated by Samsung at CES 2016. It is a chest-worn pair of patches that can monitor users’ heartrates, tracking electrocardiogram information and rate of blood flow and fat. The information is then sent to a smartphone app using a Bluetooth connection.

Exosuit: clothing to help people perform better

Scientists at Harvard University are developing a soft exosuit. The suit is intended to be unobtrusive, conform to the wearer’s body shape and augment the wearer’s abilities e.g. assist the elderly with walking. In a study of a pair of running shorts incorporating the researchers’ technology the wearer was able to run a mile 25 seconds quicker than without wearing the shorts. Areas continuing to be researched for the suit include structured functional textiles, lightweight and efficient actuation, wearable sensors, intuitive and robust control, experimental biomechanics, and translational applications.

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