Even if you’re not entirely sure why someone would want to carry on a conversation with his wrist, the potential applications for wearable technology don’t require the vision of Da Vinci to diagnose. Particularly in sports, where a variety of gadgets are available to help with proper technique, or head off injuries before they happen.
For those athletes hoping to get a little more intimate with their technology and maximize feedback in any given workout, how about weaving it right into the fabric? That’s what the folks at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen, Germany hope to bring you ASAP with their FitnessSHIRT. While the name could use a little work – even by German standards it’s a wee utilitarian – the garment itself is nifty. Conductive textile electrodes are integrated into the shirt’s material, capturing cardio activity and measuring physiological signals which are then turned by a detachable electronic unit into data points like heart and breath rate. Want to transmit the data to a smartphone or PC to note changes over time (or simply for posterity)? You can totally do that.
Engineers at IIS believe the FitnessSHIRT is a more practical, comfortable alternative to chest strap monitors, and because the sensors are one with the material convey more detailed information. The use of accelerometers note an athlete’s movement, adding another layer of richness to this German chocolate fitness cake. Outside sports, the hope is FitnessSHIRT technology could, by making it easy to monitor heart rate and respiration, help firefighters, rescue teams, and others in high-risk professions operate with a greater degree of safety.
But back to sports. IIS has partnered with the fine folks at MENTORbike, a modified “Pedelec” – a hybrid bicycle powered either by muscle strength or an electric motor – that, thanks to its own high-tech gadgetry, is capable of monitoring a cyclist’s progress throughout a workout and over time. A wireless connection would link the shirt, pedelec, and a smartphone mounted on the handlebars. The instant feedback would help athletes maintain whatever benchmarks were demanded by that day’s workout. The system would be particularly beneficial for athletes rehabbing injury, allowing them to exert energy safely. If pulse rate exceeds a maximum value, the motor in the pedelec could kick in to lighten the load. If pulse rate falls too far, the motor throttles back and forces the rider to pedal more.
A shirt that measures your vital signs and translates them into precision mechanized performance on your hybrid powered bike? Nah … nothing German-sounding about that.