Imagine if your sweater was actually one big computer that responded to being stretched, pressed, or adjusted. That cyborg-inspired future could now be a reality thanks to a team of scientists that has used nanowires to create a new wearable, multifunctional sensor.
The sensor uses some of the same technology that's at work in smartphone screens, but a novel approach to engineering means that it can be stretched to 150 times its normal size. Developed by scientists at North Carolina State University, this sensor can conduct electricity and also has the ability to store an electric charge, also known as capacitance. It's made by pouring a liquid polymer insulator over nanowires attached to a silicon plate. Once peeled off the plate, the sensor can be woven into clothing, integrated into prosthetics, or even mounted directly onto human skin.
"These sensors could be used to help develop prosthetics that respond to a user's movement and provide feedback when in use," explains Dr. Yong Zhu, senior author of a paper about the sensor, in a release. "They could also be used to create robotics that can 'feel' their environment, or the sensors could be incorporated into clothing to track motion or monitor an individual's physical health."
So if you think fitness trackers are a little lame, imagine if you just put on a shirt that kept track of everything your body was doing. Better yet, just stick a sensor to your chest like some sort of futurist tattoo, and let the data collection begin. Let's just hope the clothes don't get a mind of their own. [NC State via The Verge]