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Clever clothes! Seams in clothing can capture body movement

Set of exercises used for evaluation in Study 2: (a) Assisted shoulder flexion, (b) Assisted shoulder flexion - wall, (c) Scaption strengthening, weight, (d) Stretching wrist extensors, (e) Stretching wrist flexors, (f) Elbow extension with weight, (g) Side lying external rotation, (h) AAROM external rotation, (i) Pronation/supination hammer, (j) Wrist flexion, (k) Wrist extension, (l) Elbow Flexion. We also collected data for (m) neutral position. Olivia Ruston

Press release issued: 3 July 2024

Everyday clothing may soon be able to capture and record body movements according to new research published by the Universities of Bristol and Bath.

Harmless low voltages are passed through conductive threads which are stitched into garment seams to create electrical circuits. Their resistance changes with the movement of the wearer's body. The work opens up new possibilities to make digital clothing which senses and captures movements much more accurately than is possible using current phones and smart watches.

The paper, presented at the Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) conference in Copenhagen today (3 July), lays the foundations for e-textile designers and clothing manufacturers to create cutting edge garments that could enhance exercise, physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

Professor Mike Fraser of the University of Bristol’s School of Computer Science commented: "We're excited by the opportunity for clothing manufacturers to implement our designs in sleeves and other garment seams.

“We've shown that common overlocked seams in standard garment constructions can do a good job of sensing movement. The design avoids the need for a separate power source by pairing the seam with a charging coil, drawing the energy wirelessly from a mobile phone placed in the pocket.

“This means advanced motion sensing garments could be made without altering existing manufacturing processes.

"We have also shown that smartphone apps using advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques can use this movement data to match body movement to specific postures or gestures such as physiotherapeutic exercises."


'SeamSleeve: robust arm movement sensing through powered stitching' by Olivia Ruston, Adwait Sharma and Mike Fraser in the Proceedings of the Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (open access)

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