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Latest Imperial Lates Event Showcases Innovative Wearables and Intelligent Clothing

The most recent Imperial Lates event exhibited innovative wearables and intelligent clothing for the public.

(Image credit: Imperial College)

As London was celebrating London Fashion week, Imperial investigators exhibited their own wearable designs on the ramp. During this week’s Imperial Lates: Smart Fashion event, scientists around the College displayed their own smart designs of intelligent clothing and wearable technology.

Visitors to the free evening event could speak to the scientists and also try out some of the designs themselves. Among the range of displays and workshops, there were children’s clothes that grew along with the infant, tattoos that sense how dehydrated the body is, innovative gloves for future astronauts, and a discussion on how technology can render the fashion industry more sustainable.

Future Prosthetics

Imperial graduate Nate Macabuag exhibited his entrepreneurial spirit by demonstrating a start-up company, named as Mitt, and its groundbreaking prosthetic designs. The objective of Mitt is to offer easy-to-use and reasonably priced prosthetics to everyone in need.

Existing prosthetic limbs available through the NHS have numerous design imperfections—they are very costly as well as often very uncomfortable to wear. Also, the latter problem eventually causes almost one-third of prosthetic limbs distributed to amputees to be not worn. Mitt’s solution to the issue is to go directly to the amputees and enquire what they needed from a prosthetic limb.

Such a direct strategy led Nate and his cofounder Ben Lakey to make a prosthetic that is developed by keeping a user in mind. In addition to being insightful and straightforward, the newly designed prosthetics are comfortable to wear and are based on modular parts that can be replaced with the help of simple magnetic attachments. They are just a few hundred grams in weight and presently have a minimum of 18 different attachments that can be used for various jobs—anything from writing to wine drinking. Moreover, the low cost of the design enables Mitt’s prosthetics to be sold at a cost that subsidizes them to the people who are the least able to pay for it.

We think about prosthetics just as we would about a pair of sneakers, they have to be comfortable to wear and affordable, so that people could and would want to use them.

Nate Macabuag, Graduate, Imperial College London.

Look out for Mitt’s upcoming launch to the wider public later this year.

Upgraded Tradition

When Anisha Kanabar saw her grandmother staggering from side to side as she walked, she realized that there may be a correlation between the customary sari garment that she wore and the weakening musculoskeletal difficulties that her grandmother was facing. While walking in saris, a slight forward kicking action is needed to prevent the wearer from falling over the clothing. However, the kicking action can lead to the development of bad posture.

Since that time, Anisha’s aim was to recreate the customary garment such that it maintains the tradition while at the same time avoiding the development of bad posture practices that can eventually result in bigger problems, for example, osteoarthritis. Anisha has designed an innovative sari that has a structured insert inside it and causes the fabric to be accustomed to a person’s movement, eliminating the need to kick the garment.

At first, Anisha’s grandmother was doubtful about trying on the design, but now she highly appreciates the help; furthermore, the recreated sari is rather trendy among the younger people because of its ease and convenience.

As much as this is about helping older people, you don’t want to scare young people from wearing the garment as well, you want them to be able to wear it both comfortably and proudly.

Anisha Kanabar, Imperial College London.

During the Lates event, a visitor who works as a costume designer spoke to Anisha and he thought that the design could potentially work for designing more comfortable theatre costumes as well.

When enquired about her inspiration for her work, Anisha added, “Innovation is all around us, you just got to find it.”

Space Fashion

Although gloves may not appear like the type of clothing that requires much innovation, the scientists from Imperial’s Hamlyn Centre displayed their enhanced designs on gloves that most people have imagined wearing in their childhood—ones that come with a spacesuit.

One of the problems with the existing model of a space glove is that, during a spacewalk, it is filled with air and becomes very hard to operate and move. Inflated gloves pose a lot of resistance; therefore, astronauts waste much energy just by moving their fingers and it may take a long time to perform even a simple job of tightening a screw.

Imperial scientists have developed a glove that has sensors positioned on a person’s fingers inside the glove. The sensors transmit finger movement information to an exoskeleton that fits with the spacesuit, which can consecutively offer assistance with the action that is being carried out.

Another problem with the current version of space gloves is that the gloves themselves are very thick, which causes an astronaut to almost not feel the sense of touch. To enhance the perceptible senses of the wearer, the new version of the space glove has sensors externally that transmit touch information via small vibrations, offering a new feedback loop to the astronaut. Who knew that gloves can be too complex?

New Use for Gyroscopes

Although space gloves are probably something that most people will not notice around them usually, a GyroGlove might be found in several households in near future.

GyroGlove is a design of Dr Faii Ong, medicine graduate at Imperial, and it uses basic principles of a gyroscope to stop tremors in people’s hands. Gyroscopes are equipment that are used to maintain the orientation of an object. Nowadays, gyroscopes are widely used in the industry for aircraft and ship navigation and there is probably a gyroscope inside everyone’s pocket too, which is the smartphone.

The medical background of Dr Faii Ong has motivated him to develop hand-stabilizing gloves hoping that they would assist Parkinson’s patients to overcome the symptomatic tremors. The GyroGlove resembles a normal glove with a small cylinder on its back, in which a gyroscope that stabilizes hand movements is positioned. GyroGear, a company that makes the GyroGlove, is presently confirming all the needed medical approvals and will shortly take the GyroGlove into clinical trials. Besides its application for Parkinson’s patients, GyroGlove could potentially someday be employed in other areas that need precise hand movements, for example, surgery or elite sports.

Wonder Women Lates: 6 March

The next Lates event is scheduled on March 6th, 2019, and it will be celebrating the inspirational, imaginative, and all-around superheroes that are the women in science and engineering.

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