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The Next Step in Wearable Tech

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Researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus have made a major leap forward in wearable technology. Scientists have created a new way to monitor and interpret human motion. This could allow for better sensor readings and more accurate bio-readings in our wearable technology.

The inter-disciplinary project has resulted in an entirely new type of smart and wearable device. This device is capable not only of sensing more complicated motions in the wearer, it can take that data and interpret it on a far more complex level.

The sensor was created thanks to graphene nano-flakes. These flakes were infused into a rubber-like adhesive pad. The sensor was then exhaustively tested to determine its durability. Tests included stretching the minute sensor up to 350% of its original state. Scientists would then determine if the sensor was still able to maintain accuracy in such a stressed state. All told the new device underwent over 10,000 cycles of stretching and relaxing to ensure it could maintain electrical stability.

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“We tested this sensor vigorously. Not only did it maintain its form but more importantly it retained its sensory functionality. We have further demonstrated the efficacy of GNF-Pad as a haptic technology in real-time applications by precisely replicating the human finger gestures using a three-joint robotic finger.”

Professor Homayoun Najjaran, University of British Columbia School of Engineering

Researchers hoped to construct a device with a very specific set of capabilities. The sensor needed to stretch, be highly flexible, and still maintain a reasonable size. At the same time the device needed to be simultaneously sensitive and tough, without significantly increasing the production costs. This was no easy task, but the end results speak for themselves.

The new method of fabrication promises a way to provide highly advanced sensor technology in a way that’s easy, fast, and remarkably low cost. This all spells big business for the ever-expanding world of wearable technology. Manufacturers could use this new technology to design incredibly sensitive and effective wearable devices for a fraction of current costs.

In order to demonstrate the versatility of the fabrication method, scientists built three separate wearable devices. These were a wristband, a knee band, and a glove. Each device had different goals: the wristband used the pulse of the artery to monitor heartbeats; the glove tracked hand, finger, and wrist movements; and the knee bands monitored large scale muscle movements made during activities ranging from running to sitting down. Each time the devices proved remarkably accurate while being durable and inexpensive — a dream come true for creators of wearable technology.

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