Coaching from clothes | MIT Technology Review

What if an item of clothing could help you become better at singing, sports or other activities? A new type of fiber developed by researchers at MIT and in Sweden could make this possible.

OmniFibers, as they are called, work like artificial muscles. They consist of five layers, including a fluid channel, a silicone-based elastomer tube to contain the fluid, and a flexible sensor that uses electrical resistance to sense how stretched the fibers are. Garments made from this material could sense how stretched or compressed they are, then provide immediate tactile feedback to wearers.

The researchers asked an opera singer to perform wearing an underwear made from their fibers. Then, they recorded the motion data from the strain sensors and translated it into tactile signals that could encourage optimal posture and breathing patterns in another singer wearing the garment. They were able to “record and replay the complex movements that we could capture from the physiology of an expert singer and transpose them to a non-singer, the body of a novice learner,” says Ozgun Kilic Afsar, researcher affiliated with the MIT and co-author of an article describing work with Hiroshi Ishii, professor of media arts and sciences.

The same approach could be used to help athletes, recovering patients and others learn how to optimize their breathing in a given situation, says Afsar.

Ishii, too, can provide for a variety of applications. “Everyone has to breathe. Breathing has a major impact on productivity, confidence and performance, ”he says. “Breathing is important for singing, but it can also help when recovering from surgery or depression. ”

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