Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg, Germany have developed new printable sensors that can be integrated into clothing items to track physical activity and other health parameters. The first batch of the devices will be able to record sequences of movements of different parts of the body, basically like having a bunch of activity trackers attached to you while they’re all synced up and recording movement together.
The sensors are made from piezoelectric polymer printing pastes that are embedded within clothing using traditional screen printing. Once these pastes are applied in a wanted pattern, an electric field is used to align the piezoelectric polymers within the paste. Once aligned, pressure on the material will cause a small amount of current to be generated. Gathering these signals from a bunch of sensors within clothing will hopefully provide a detailed picture of how the body moves, potentially revealing underlying conditions that can lead to a bad walking gait, poor timing, and other hard to spot physical behavior.
The sensors end up nearly invisible when integrated within clothes and remain flexible, so may very well end up being popular by clothing manufacturers. There’s still work to be done and the technology has to prove itself useful and long lasting. There are tests to be done and clothes to be washed before we see these hit the market.