Here Comes The Smart Pants, Literally!

Posted on July 21, 2012 in Sci-Tech

By Mahanshu Parashar:

In a great development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg and other universities around the world including our own IITs scientists are developing clothes which can be literally called ‘smart pants’. These New “electronic textiles” could help monitor the activities of patients with chronic illnesses. Computer engineers have developed pants with sensors embedded in the fabric that measure speed, rotation and flexing, and send wireless signals to a computer. Researchers plan to integrate computers into shirts, hats and gloves.

These clothes are truly smart in every sense, you get a cell phone call and your sleeve answers it. You want to know how far you jogged and your pants tell you. Smart clothes will be an upcoming fad soon.

Mark Jones, a computer scientist working on these textiles says, “We view electronic textiles as, sort of, where computing meets the fabric”. This high-tech marriage is breeding the latest in wearable computers, like pants that detect movement and let a computer know your every move. And these scientists are the new age priests which are marrying these two!

A loom helps sew the wires and fabric together. Then sensors embedded in the fabric measure the speed, rotation and flexibility of the pants with every movement. Wireless signals are sent from the pants to a computer to display the activity.

E-textiles are a way to build wearable computers that look like normal clothing to build pervasive computing devices that fit in seamlessly with the environment. Researchers are hoping that these wearable computers will help save lives.We can tell what activity that person is doing. That sort of information is extremely valuable when we’re trying to monitor someone with a chronic illness such a heart condition. And monitoring your every step is something clever clothing can catch.

There is a plan on developing more smart clothes to integrate computers into shirts, hats and gloves.

Sensors are tiny electronic devices that can both detect and generate electrical signals from the movement and position of any given object, including the motion of the human body. These signals are then transmitted wirelessly to a microcontroller and analyzed using specially designed algorithms.

It all started when Scientists at Virginia Tech’s E-textiles Laboratory were developing clothes that appear and feel normal, but provide sensing and computing capabilities. Soon there efforts paid off. Wires and sensors are woven into the fabric, which can then be used to make shirts, pants, hats, gloves or other clothing items. It turns clothing into “wearable computers,” capable of monitoring things like how fast and how far a jogger runs, or the blood pressure and heart rate of a cardiac patient.

There are numerous benefits for using such kind clothing for the medical community. Smart clothing/wearable computers are already on the market, but the current e-textiles in use have problems. Some sensors only work well if they are placed a certain distance apart on a garment. If the user rolls up the shirt sleeves or pants legs, or other changes occur while the e-textile garment is being worn, the network of sensors needs to be able to “sense” the reconfiguration and adjust accordingly in order to perform effectively. The e-textiles being developed at Virginia Tech will be able to sense their own shapes, the wearer’s motions, and the positions of the sensing elements.

In the future, Virginia Tech researchers will be working with a major textile manufacturer in Virginia, Dan River, Inc., to determine whether e-textiles can be made using traditional manufacturing techniques. To that end, they will test a prototype e-textile fabric on Dan River’s existing looms. If this works, wiring will be woven into the fabric using the looms, and the sensors will be attached after the garments are completed.

If that will be possible then these “Smart pants” will get cheaper and they will come in open market. This can attract all the health enthusiasts and also people who love high tech. The time to be a ‘Smart pant’ literally is finally here.