Wearable Sensor Meets Fabric Displays

Most analysts would agree, the age of wearables is upon us and many are looking to fancy new flexible LCD and OLED displays to drive adoption into the mainstream. But BeBop Sensors (Berkeley, CA) believes that the makers of new displays for wearables may be on the verge of being blindsided with the advent of a patented monolithic fabric sensor with static (yes fabric) icons that can measure and report back (real-time) various aspects of physicality including bend, location (x,y), motion, rotation, angle and torque. Think of an embossed image of an MP3 playe’s controls, such as fast forward (double arrows), play (single arrow), stop (double vertical bars) etc. Wearable sensors are on the verge of exploding into the mainstream, but this new fabric sensor may have the potential to be an information display market disruptor.

That’s right, no active display at all, just a wearable sensor fabric woven into clothing, shoes, headbands, …anything. Here is a list of potential application areas, and this is just the top line: clothing (fitness, maternity, baby, elderly etc.) and protective wear, shoes, healthcare devices, athletic equipment, automotive, robotics, aerospace, gaming, biometrics, prosthetics, recycling monitors and appliances.

The group said its technology provides 3D maps of data by actually measuring physicality from integrated sensors, traces and electronics, woven into a single piece of fabric. This approach offers “…greater sensitivity, resolution, range of deployment, and robustness – all with a tiny size”, the group said in a recent press release. Its robustness claim is significant in that the technology is already highly deployed in more than 1M musical instrument products using the sensors in KMI’s QuNexus and QuNeo keyboards. BeBop Sensors Inc. is a spin-off from the KMI Music Group.

The new wearable sensor technology is also available for OEM evaluation with a turnkey sensor solution that includes software developers kit (SDK) and hardware platform. This can range from basic sensors to complete wireless solutions with advanced power management, the company said. It also offers “visualization programs” and a variety of “2D and 3D representations and colors” or simply adapting the BeBop data into whole new application areas.- Steve Sechrist

Display Daily Comments

Least we forget, in the early days of computing, some of the first information display devices included dot matrix print-outs with static results on paper, not the flashy ultra high pixel density OLEDs and LCDs of today. Now at the confluence of wearable technology and sensors, the new (or rather re-purposed) BeBop patented monolithic fabric sensors will allow designers to “answer calls from a shirt, predict diabetic 303 & measure gait through insoles of shoes, even show hand/foot location on gym mats, and track driver alertness on steering wheels,” the company claims. And while its tough to assess what real impact the technology will have on the wearable display space, suffice it to say, it may go a long way toward bringing sensors into the mainstream, in a way we only imagined before. (SS)