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9th September 2018

New "powered clothing" can enhance physical abilities

A startup company seeks to improve quality of life through quality of motion, fusing apparel with discreet robotics to create "powered clothing".



Seismic, based in California, this week unveiled its Spring 2019 Collection at TechCrunch Disrupt, the world's largest technology startup conference. Its new "powered clothing" fuses discreet robotics with textiles to create products that look and feel like apparel, but function more like an extension of the body – forming an extra set of muscles that people can wear every day.

CEO and Co-founder Rich Mahoney showcased the Seismic Spring '19 Collection by introducing models wearing bespoke Seismic suits in a refined palette with bright accents. This demonstration highlighted how the suits can support the body's core by providing up to 30 watts of power to each hip and the lower back to support sitting, standing, lifting, carrying and a range of other activities.

"If you wear clothes, you are a potential customer of Seismic," said Mahoney. "We see a future where simply getting dressed in the morning can dramatically improve people's lifestyles and expand what they are capable of accomplishing. Today we unveiled a product prototype, and our technology will continue to become lighter and smaller and more powerful, with the suit's intelligence uniquely optimising the wearer's experience, learning and adapting with every use."


powered clothing future timeline


Seismic's Powered Clothing consists of three distinct layers: a base layer, strength layer, and intelligent layer:

The base layer is the apparel itself, designed to be worn primarily as an undergarment or can be worn as activewear on its own. Seismic's designers looked to the sports performance world to create a premium-quality suit that is cool, dry and comfortable to wear. The base layer contains interior pockets that hold the removable hardware and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. It is constructed from a combination of stretch knit and woven fabrics that follow the contours of the body and provide structure where needed.

The strength layer contains robotic components – located on the outer leg, extending up to the hip area, and including the lower back – that replicate the functionality of muscles, tendons and ligaments. These robotic "muscles" contract and relax, just as the body's muscles do, to assist motion, such as standing up from a seated position. If the wearer is in a prolonged standing position, the muscles will co-contract around the hip to promote stability and the proper posture. This layer also includes sensors that track body orientation, as well as the force applied by each robotic muscle.

The intelligent layer is contained within an external pack, worn on the lower back, which is akin to the suit's brain and borrows from the world of mobile and IoT technology. Key components include:
– Onboard computer with memory, gathering data from sensors throughout the suit.
– Wireless connectivity (WiFi, Bluetooth, LTE) to access suit settings.
– Fully programmable suit controls that ensure a personal user experience called "Symbiosis." This means the suit listens to the wearer's movements and automatically provides support at just the right time; no other commands from the user are necessary.


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"Creating impactful robotic products is my passion," said Mahoney. "The impetus for starting Seismic was when I realised a very simple truism: no one wears robotics, everyone wears clothing. That is why we are an apparel company first and foremost. The more we fit into people's lifestyles, the more they will use the technology.

"I'm happy to report that our beta users love the suit and show us new use cases all the time. They are playing tennis while wearing it, going hiking; even wearing it to concerts where they'll be seated for long periods of time. This is clothing that should exist, and now it does."

Seismic's technology was originally developed at SRI International for a DARPA-funded program. The company has assembled a team of experts from a wide range of areas – including textile innovation, robotics, biomechanics, and artificial intelligence – and has raised over $22 million in equity financing.

Seismic has been awarded an elite position in the 2018 Tech Pioneer cohort by the World Economic Forum. Launched in 2000, the Technology Pioneer community is composed of early-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to make a significant impact on business and society.




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