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 person’s 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 person’s 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.
The idea is great and I've seen other shirts that try to integrate sensors to give wearer's a read on everything from their heart rate to their proper posture. My two cents: The shirt needs to be a bit more streamlined. There appears to be too much apparatus hanging off the shirt to make it comfortable enough to wear. After all, people are going to use it running, biking etc., where they are hot and sweaty. Just some minor design refinements, but I know tons of people who would flock to something like this.
Well, gosh, Beth, I think it is just a prototype, after all. Yes, it needs streamling if it is to be used commercially. That should not be a problem, though.
I worked at a large company that had a Ubiquitous Computing effort. I think it was a few years too early, but wearable computing was a part of it. I run into people who are concerned about the number of sensors in their phones. This would really freak them out.
I think it's a great first step even though it does look a little bulky. That just means you'll get that much more of a workout. Also, I wonder if it would be washable or would you need to take out all the sensors before washing.
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.
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'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 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.
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