Soft, stretchy fabric-based sensors for wearable robotsHybrid…

Soft, stretchy fabric-based sensors for wearable robots

Hybrid silicone-fabric sensor detects fine motor movements by flexing with the body

Wearable technologies – from heart rate monitors to virtual reality headsets – are exploding in popularity in both the consumer and research spaces, but most of the electronic sensors that detect and transmit data from wearables are made of hard, inflexible materials that can restrict both the wearer’s natural movements and the accuracy of the data collected. Now, a team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has created a highly sensitive soft capacitive sensor made of silicone and fabric that moves and flexes with the human body to unobtrusively and accurately detect movement.

“We’re really excited about this sensor because, by leveraging textiles in its construction, it is inherently suitable for integration with fabric to make ‘smart’ robotic apparel,” says corresponding author Conor Walsh, Ph.D., Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute and the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS. “Additionally, we have designed a unique batch-manufacturing process that allows us to create custom-shaped sensors that share uniform properties, making it possible to quickly fabricate them for a given application,” says co-author Ozgur Atalay, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute. This research is published in the current issue of Advanced Materials Technologies, and the protocol is available as part of the Harvard Biodesign Lab’s Soft Robotics Toolkit.

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