MIT researchers create fabric that can sense and respond to wearer’s movements
Textile production may be one of the oldest technologies known to man, but it hasn’t been easy to adapt the advances of the information age to our clothes. Of course, we’ve seen efforts like Google’s try to bring clothing into the modern era, but these weren’t particularly successful.
This does not prevent a team of researchers from and Sweden. They created an intelligent fiber that can sense and respond to the movement of its wearer. Nicknamed OmniFiber, the soft robotic fabric has a hollow central channel that allows a fluid medium to pass through it. Using compressed air, fibers can bend, stretch, roll up and pulse on demand. It’s something that allows them to provide real-time tactile feedback, which brings them closer to an artificial muscle.
Artificial muscle fibers are not a new idea; other approached technology in their own way. However, what makes OmniFiber stand out is that it doesn’t need heat to change shape. This immediately makes it more convenient as overheating of the skin is not a problem. It also has other advantages. It is possible to make the fabric with relatively inexpensive materials and the fibers do not require a delicate weaving process.
The team envisions their fabric making its way into clothing that could help teach athletes and singers how to better control their breathing. Another even more exciting app could see an OmniFiber garment helping someone recover their natural breathing pattern after respiratory illness like COVID-19.
It may be a while before we see OmniFiber make its way into the real world, but that doesn’t mean the project is over. , one of the researchers who worked on the fabric, said MIT News she plans to continue working on the system. Among the things she wants to do is develop a manufacturing system that allows the creation of even longer filaments.