A team of students at Northeastern University in Boston has combined medical and Web-based technologies to create an intelligent T-shirt that can dynamically track a person's workout.
Squid is comprised of a wearable compression shirt that integrates with a smartphone application and a Web database to monitor the levels of activation of a person's muscles while engaged in resistance training, according to the university (watch a video below).
The name squid comes from the EMG (electromyography) tentacles that are sewn into the shirt and stretch from the shirt and attach to a person's chest to measure muscle usage. The shirt also has a heart-rate monitor to provide a more holistic view of activity level.
Squid is a sensitized, wearable compression shirt that integrates with a smartphone and Web database to monitor resistance exercises. Squid's "tentacles" are strategically placed EMG (electromyography) sensors that monitor the user's muscle activation levels. The solution also includes a heart-rate monitor for a more complete view of fitness activity. (Source: Northeastern University)
To collect information during a personís workout, the shirt plugs into a small electronics box that powers, filters, and amplifies the signals from the sensors. The data is then sent wirelessly via a standard Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, where the Squid application records and visualizes the data in real-time, said Mark Sivak, a faculty member in the Creative Industries program and an advisor on the project, in an email. The application is currently compatible with Android-based smartphones. An app for Apple's iOS platform is being developed.
At the end of the workout, the data is sent to the Web-based database that provides part of the backend for a Squid Website. To access that data, people have Squid accounts where they can sign in and review their fitness data, tracking their progress over a series of workouts. This can help them choose new workouts or goals for the future, Sivak said, adding that the team is targeting two main groups with the solution -- collegiate sports teams and "tech-savvy, fitness-loving consumers."
To better reach the former target audience, the Squid team has designed a coach/curator interface as part of the solution's Website manager so workouts can be developed, managed, and pushed out to a team or group. For the latter, Sivak said the team envisions Squid being attractive to people who have bought something like the Nike+ Fuelband, a combination watch and activity monitor that keeps track of a personís everyday physical activity.
The team has completed a prototype of Squid and filed a provisional patent for the invention last December. It is now working on a second version of the prototype.
Mechanical Engineering & Interactive Media Students at Northeastern designed and developed Squid as a Capstone Project. The Biomedical Mechatronics Laboratory at NU and the NU Clinical Exercise Physiology Lab sponsored the project.
A comment tucked deep in the story references collegiate sports teams, which might use this technology. I think they're right on the mark with that obseravtion. A few years ago, I visited a college that had its athletes using TV cameras in the weight room so the athletes could track their form while they lifted weights. They also used sensors to tell them if they were leaning too far forward while they did squats with heavy weights. These shirts would seem to be a natural for Division 1 college athletics, which is using more and more technology every year.
Greg, I was thinking along the same lines. I worked with a guy once that had some very positive experiences with bio-feedback and was wondering if something like this could be used as an advanced form.
I wonder how similar or not these ideas and technology are to the motion-capture technology that already exists, which has given us at least a couple of animated sci-fi type moves: Beowulf (the one with Angelina Jolie, Ray Winstone and Crispin Glover) and Through a Scanner Darkly.
@Greg: Now this is a great idea. Being able to take that real-time physiological data and leverage it for highly custom physical therapy treatments is perfect. Sometimes it's not that easy to explain where there is pain or what the specific problem is. This add another layer of information that can be tapped to create a spot-on treatment plan.
I can also see where an occupational or physical therapist could benefit by using this vast amount of collected data in conjunction with a computer expert system. The software would then recommend the best custom therapy program for the patient based upon his/her current performance/condition. Insurance companies may also help pay for this if it proves to accelerate patient healing and create a consistent treatment standard. Finally, this system could help coach less-experienced therapists as they develop their skills.
I've seen variations on this theme in stores and online--perhaps not collecting as much data, but pretty much in the same category. I think the sensors definitely have to be removed to be washed and yes, I realize this is a prototype and the design will be streamlined. I think my point is that the idea is great and there are definitely folks working on the problem, but the user experience (i.e., from the software that displays the data so it's digestable to the actual aesthetics of the shirt design) is key to making this something that isn't just a whim purchase, but becomes part of your daily workout routine.
I agree that it's great first step, jmiller. Most people who work out want to know, at the very least, what their heart rate is. I suspect that the other features will become popular, too, and this idea will take off. Actually, I would be surprised if a sporting goods manufacturer isn't already working on this.
I think about atheletes that currently study hours and hours of film of the swings, throws, or hits. This would allow them to generate data that would give quantatitive data instead of qualitative. before long we can take that data and program robots. We won't have to worry about concusions when it's robots playing the contact sports.
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