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Health Monitoring SmartTex Shirt Ready for Lift Off

Smart apparel is taking the next step, or giant leap, to help people track their physical performance.

Researchers will evaluate the effects of the space environment on the human cardiovascular system using the new SmartTex shirt developed by the German Aerospace Center in cooperation with DSI Aerospace Technology, the medical faculty of Bielefeld University and textile research partner Hohenstein.

SmartTex will use integrated sensors to transfer physiological data from astronauts to Earth via a wireless communication network. SmartTex will be tested as part of the Wireless Compose-2 project by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Dr. Matthias Maurer, who will leave for his six month mission on the International Space Station on Oct. 30.

The SmartTex shirt is intended to provide a continuous picture of the vital functions of astronauts, which will be particularly relevant for future long-term manned space missions to the Moon and Mars. Future transfer of the SmartTex technology to fitness and telemedicine applications is expected. The smart textiles research will also be relevant for applications on Earth.

“During the previous Spacetex (2014) and Spacetex2 (2018) projects, we gathered valuable data on the interaction of the body, clothing and climate under microgravity conditions,” Hohenstein senior scientific expert Dr. Jan Beringer said. “The comfort and material insights provided by those experiments with ESA astronaut Dr. Alexander Gerst have been incorporated into Hohenstein’s design of the new SmartTex shirt.”

Beringer said Maurer can wear his tailor-made shirt comfortably during everyday work on the ISS because his body measurements were used for pattern development and production.

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“We also integrated the sensors, data processors and communication modules into the shirt, so that they interfere as little as possible and are always positioned in the right place, regardless of the wearing situation,” he added. “This is the prerequisite for reliable measurement of physiological data.”

During the BEAT ((Ballistocardiography for Extraterrestrial Applications) experiment, Maurer will be the first astronaut to wear a T-shirt equipped with sensors that measure his ballistocardiographic data such as pulse and relative blood pressure. For this purpose, the sensors were calibrated in the “:envihab” research facility at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany. Details can also be read on the contraction rate and opening and closing times of the heart valves, which are normally accessible only via sonography or computer tomography. To realistically study the space environment’s effects on the human cardiovascular system, Maurer’s ballistocardiographic data will be recorded before, during and after his stay on the ISS.

The wireless communication network reads sensor data and can determine the position of people and objects in space by propagation times of radio pulses. It is also available as a platform for several experiments on the ISS.

Hohenstein is an international partner for independent testing, certification and applied research around the human-textile-environment interaction. Hohenstein is a founding member and leading provider of the Oeko-Tex portfolio of services and is certified by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission as a third-party, independent laboratory for compliance verification.

Smart apparel is taking the next step, or giant leap, to help people track the performance in space and on Earth.
Asensei and Virus International are teaming up to bring connected apparel to connected fitness. Courtesy

Meanwhile back on Earth, Virus International is launching new line of smart “(app)arel” with Asensei motion capture technology to allow any connected fitness product to add form-tracking and real-time coaching.

“Until today, smart apparel has been developed by technology companies focused on function not fashion, but now, thanks to our partnership with Virus, we are giving consumers apparel that eliminates the choice between fashion and function–now they can have both,” Asensei CEO Steven Webster said. “We have always believed that customers will want to work out in the brands of apparel they already love, wherever they want, with the fitness products and apps they already own.”

Russell Lin, CEO of Virus International, said the company has always believed that the most high-performance gear should not only be for a select few, but that everyone should have access to equipment that helps them achieve their goals and elevates their performance.

“By partnering with Asensei to integrate their (app)arel technology into our gear, we can now elevate every athlete’s performance, at every level, in every sport,” Lin said. “This is the next step of that same fabric-technology innovation that we have been exploring.”

Personalized coaching is now a must-have capability for apps and fitness products as companies like Tempo and Tonal add real-time form coaching, and leaders like Peloton and Nautilus acquire form-tracking technologies for forthcoming products.

Some of the most popular use-cases customers are seeking to implement with Connected Coaching powered by include onboarding lessons that teach beginner to advanced techniques that will appear in workouts. It’s also useful for movement screens during warmups that allow adjust to programming, and recommending supplemental strength and mobility exercises, as well as accurate rep-counting of both simple and complex movement patterns, giving real-time feedback on form during practice, and conveying areas for improvement post-practice.