Sensor-Laden T-Shirt Sweats Workout Details

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.

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.

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