Skinetic is an intelligent exoskeleton made of electroactive polymers that records information about the wearer, gives physical support, adjusts breathability based on physical activity and the environment, guides the wearer towards proper physical form, and supports the wearer while they sleep. It can be worn by itself or under other clothing. It constantly analyzes the wearer’s movements and skin to understand the person’s level of exertion, fatigue, form, and health. When Skinetic senses poor posture, improper physical form, or risk of injury, its electroactive polymers flex like a muscle in the correct areas to assist the user in their movements. With Skinetic’s data, users can learn more about their own bodies including physical imbalances, muscle weaknesses, calories burned, skin health, and more. While they sleep, Skinetic guides the user into an ideal sleeping position and helps regulate internal temperature.
Right now, our conception of clothing is rather simple: they are pieces of cloth, shaped to fit our forms, that sit on our bodies until we take them off. But what if our clothes did more than just sit on our bodies? Because we have such an intimate physical connection with our clothes, they afford a unique opportunity to create devices that serve us in ways that few other devices can. With the right sensors, clothes can collect data and learn about us. With the right materials, they could give us physical support when we need it. As technology becomes smaller and smarter, we have the ability to enhance our clothes in ways that can help us learn about our bodies and care for them.
We present to you: the idea of an intelligent “exoskeleton”. It's a one-piece, skin-tight bodysuit that learns about our bodies, tells us about our physical health, gives physical feedback and support, cares for our skin, changes form with the environment, and much more. In the past, we have not been able to take advantage of the unique relationship we have with our clothes because we lacked the materials, sensors, biological knowledge, and industrial power to create such a device. But now, we have the technology to create a comfortable, flexible article of clothing that serves a more complex role in our lives.
SO WHAT DOES IT DO?
Electroactive polymers give physical feedback on the user’s form.
While moving, Skinetic pushes on the muscles and joints in a way that guides the user into proper form. This is applicable to walking, running, lifting, etc.
Users learn proper form over time.
Users are far less at risk of physical injury.
Skin sensors and environmental sensors tell Skinetic to enhance or reduce breathability to suit the situation.
Sensors on the skin can detect temperature, perspiration, exertion, moisture, and other biomarkers to assess overall health.
Skinetic summarizes results so that users learn more about their skin health and certain aspects of internal health.
Skinetic can give early warnings for certain diseases that are detectable through the skin.
Users learn how to take better care of their skin over time and can learn how certain environmental factors affect their skin health.
Skinetic integrates the user’s age, measurements, skin health, overall health, sleeping habits, movement habits, location, and external environment to learn what assistance the user needs and to make recommendations to the user.
Skinetic can be specifically programed to help those with various physical ailments, including Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy.
For all of its features and benefits, Skinetic requires relatively little interaction. Users put it on in the morning and take it off in the evening just like any other piece of clothing (or leave it on while they sleep). Skinetic’s main interface is its app, which is where users can set any sort of customizations or preferences. The app is also where Skinetic displays its data (example shown below).
The main interaction is with Skinetic’s physical guidance throughout the day, which will require some experience to get used to. The user will feel physical pushes on their muscles--some subtle, and some less subtle--and will have to learn how to negotiate them over time. Skinetic will also have to learn how each user typically reacts to the physical guidance and adjust accordingly. Users will be able to have a level of control by adjusting settings in the app to find what level of guidance they are comfortable with.
We intend for Skinetic to be useful for adults of all ages, particularly for those who can benefit from complex physical assistance in their daily lives and for those who are looking for more information about their bodies’ health and movement patterns. As Skinetic’s features expand, so will the intended user population.
Much of the technology required to create a basic version of Skinetic already exists. Skin sensors to detect key biomarkers are widely used in other contexts, and the fabric we chose—which strengthens like a muscle under electric stimulus—is already in development. With proper research, development, and funding, we believe that a fully working version of Skinetic can be created within the next decade. More complicated features, which are detailed in the Future Directions section, will take more time to develop. The most difficult part of development will likely be finding ways to integrate the technology into a comfortable, flexible fabric.
Option #1: Bacteria that form a breathable fabric
MIT Media Lab researchers have incorporated living bacteria into a synthetic fabric, creating a material that responds to body moisture and hinting at a future of clothing that reacts to the person wearing it.
The bacteria change shape quickly in response to moisture (within seconds or milliseconds)
When a person wearing the fabric heats up (and begins to sweat), the bacteria expand and the flaps open, releasing heat from the skin. Once the skin dries, the bacteria contract, closing the flaps and retaining body heat. The result: a fabric with its own miniature HVAC system.
Initial garment is produced by a printer that lays down pattern of natto bacteria.
Smells like fermented soybeans - must find a way to be able to wash it and hence make it sustainable.
Option #2: Biomimicry on sharkskin
Barnacle larvae, bacteria, algae and other ectoparasites cling to most everything passing through the water. ..except sharks. The design of the skin reduces the friction needed for most of these parasites to adhere to it. When mimicking this in the exterior design of boats, not only do the boats operate more efficiently due to the reduction (of close to 30%) of organisms sticking to the hull, it also results in far less toxins being used to clean the exterior surfaces of the vessel.
Scientists are applying the technique to create surfaces in hospitals that resist bacteria growth — the bacteria can't catch hold on the rough surface.
Hydrodynamic shape of skin pattern
Anti-microbial shape/pattern of skin
“Self-cleaning” properties of the skin, which constantly purges itself of the seemingly tenacious parasites that do manage to grab on.
Solution: Replicate the dermal denticles
Option #3: Electroactive fibers/polymers
Electroactive polymers (EAP) are actuators that most closely emulate biological muscles compared to any other actuators that are human-made and therefore they earned the moniker ‘artificial muscles’.
These fibres send tiny electric shocks to the wearer's muscles, which help keep them active and also revitalise them.
The material could also be used with a health monitor to record movement and vital signs, control heat and also track the effect of the environment on the body.
Can undergo structural deformations, such as swelling, shrinkage, and bending, in response to an electrical field. (can change dimensions when electrically activated) (mimic mechanical performance of mechanical systems)
Show simple processability, down-scalability, low specific gravity and are, in most cases, inexpensive.
High potential in several biotechnological applications including biomechanics, artificial muscles, active catheters, (bio)sensors, actuators, and drug-delivery systems, among others.
The best choice of material is option #3: Electroactive fibers/polymers. This material is a perfect fit for our goal to developing skinetic, and the benefits 100% outweigh the costs.