The Kid Should See This

OmniFibers: Soft robotic fabric that can sense, react to, and model human movement

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Could clothes of the future “help train singers or athletes to better control their breathing”? Could these clothes monitor and help reestablish breathing patterns of patients who are in rehabilitation after sickness or surgery? This is the challenge that textile-inventing researchers from MIT Media Lab, Uppsala University, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology are designing for.

Their creation, called OmniFibers, pumps compressed air (or potentially any fluidic medium) through thin, hollow channeled-fibers that can be woven together in a variety of ways. The resulting robotic fabric bends, squeezes, stretches, pulses, and curls, both sensing and reacting to the movements of its wearer.

wearing omnifabric
Design engineer Ozgun Kilic Afsar explains how this muscle-like textile works in the MIT video above. An example from MIT:

“As an initial test application of the material, the team made a type of undergarment that singers can wear to monitor and play back the movement of respiratory muscles, to later provide kinesthetic feedback through the same garment to encourage optimal posture and breathing patterns for the desired vocal performance. ‘Singing is particularly close to home, as my mom is an opera singer. She’s a soprano,’ she says…”

omnifabric undergarment

β€œThe researchers had [a classically trained opera singer] perform while wearing the garment made of their robotic fibers, and recorded the movement data from the strain sensors woven into the garment. Then, they translated the sensor data to the corresponding tactile feedback. ‘We eventually were able to achieve both the sensing and the modes of actuation that we wanted in the textile, to record and replay the complex movements that we could capture from an expert singer’s physiology and transpose it to a nonsinger, a novice learner’s body. So, we are not just capturing this knowledge from an expert, but we are able to haptically transfer that to someone who is just learning,’ she says.”

OmniFiber-based swatches with various fiber structuring techniques: (a) Woven (b) Plain knitted and rib knitted (c) Inlay-knitted (d) Weft-knitted quasi-spacer fabric with active OmniFiber spacer layer. Credit: Ozgun Kilic Afsar
Watch these invention, actuator, breathing, textile, weaving, and MIT-related videos next:
β€’Β Sticky Actuator: Inflatable stick-on β€œpouch motors”
β€’Β Harvard’s Soft Robot Walking and Crawling
β€’Β 3D-printed structures that shape-shift with magnetic microparticles
β€’ 3D printing β€˜hyperelastic bone’ to mend injuries
β€’Β DuoSkin: Functional, stylish on-skin user interfaces

Plus, a related activity from Met Kids: How to weave yarn on a mini cardboard loom.

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