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Stretchy fabric sensor could pave the way for future of wearable technology

Researchers have created a stretchy fabric sensor, which could change the future of wearable technology.

The team from Harvard University in Massachusetts hope to create "entirely new approaches" to "the future of home healthcare".

Co-author Dr Conor Walsh said: "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."

Lead author Professor Donald Ingber added: "This technology opens up entirely new approaches to wearable diagnostics and coupled therapeutics that undoubtedly will pay a central role in the future of home healthcare."

The sensor is able to track the smallest of movements by monitoring small electrical charges as they pass through.

Dr Daniel Vogt shared: "When we apply strain by pulling on the sensor from the ends, the silicone layer gets thinner and the conductive fabric layers get closer together, which changes the capacitance of the sensor in a way that's proportional to the amount of strain applied. We can measure how much the sensor is changing shape."

Ms Vanessa Sanchez said: "Our sensor's greater sensitivity means it has the ability to distinguish smaller movements, like slightly moving one finger side-to-side rather than simply whether the whole hand is open or clenched in a fist."

And Dr Ozgur Atalay believes this new technology could be utilised by the sports industry to monitor performance and improve training.

They shared: "This work shows promising results for human motion monitoring in sports, for performance optimisation, or training purposes. For example, a golfer who wears sensor integrated clothing can train himself on correct posture, or an athlete can optimise his performance by learning from sensor feedback."

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