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Seismic Enters DTC Market With Powered Apparel Via Robotics

An exoskeleton powered by discreet robotic muscles that’s light enough to resemble gym apparel has enabled Seismic to garner the attention of four strategic partners as it looks to expand its offerings in the direct-to-consumer channel.

Seismic is an early-stage firm cofounded by Rich Mahoney, who spun out the SRI Robotics arm from SRI International in 2015 and renamed the operation Seismic. Its product line is aimed at helping consumers who need added support in the market verticals of occupational safety, wellness and lifestyle and healthcare.

The four partners keen on what Seismic is doing, include uniform supplier Cintas Corp., Japanese construction firm Obayashi, modern wellness and lifestyle non-profit Transforming Age, and life science research company Solid Biosciences.

Seismic has trademarked the tag line, Powered Clothing, a way of indicating that it doesn’t see itself as a smart apparel or wearable robotics firm. What the company does focus on is the creation of apparel that functions as an extra set of muscles for the wearer through the fusion of discreet robotics with textiles.

According to Mahoney, who spoke on “New Trends in Tech and Apparel” during a fireside chat with retail consultant and moderator Rebecca Fitts Wednesday, said the company is targeting the $96 billion activewear market for its planned innovations in apparel.

“We need clothing to do more for us,” he said during the HSBC program at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, noting both the aging population and health-related issues connected to mobility.

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For Seismic, that translates to premium athletic apparel designed with the human muscular structure at its core in mind. The thin base layer is a stretch knit and woven fabric that is essentially an undergarment with interior pockets. They hold removable hardware and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that comprise the second strength layer. Located on the outer leg and extending up the hip area and lower back, the technology replicates how muscles, tendons and ligaments function. The third intelligent layer is a small external pack at the lower back that functions as the computerized brain, gathering data from the suit from the wearer’s movement to provide the appropriate physical support when needed.

The Powered Clothing supports the body’s core by providing up to 30 watts of power to each hip and lower back as it supports a range of movements from sitting, standing, lifting and carrying throughout the day’s activities. The total suit weight is 2.5 kilograms, which the company said is less than a typical winter jacket.

In trying to create power-friendly consumer products, the company is looking at how to balance its integration of robotics with apparel design and engineering. Team members on the creative side combine expertise in biomechanics with some know-how on the customer experience front. Mahoney has a PhD in engineering, specializing in robotics.

The company also elected not to go online, and instead market directly to the consumer via a Seismic Studios site in Seattle that can immerse the user in an experience that combines wellness with an emotional connection to the product line.

According to Mahoney, consumers should “feel” how their body is moving, as well as “understand” how the body is moving.

The Studios site is located in an urban retirement community owned and operated by Seismic’s partner Transforming Age. As part of the partnership, Transforming Age has reserved the first 200 core wellness suits for use across its other retirement communities. Feedback from beta test wearers will enable Seismic to refine its product line.

Seismic, based in Menlo Park, Calif., counts as investors four venture capital firms: Global Brain Ventures, Horizon Ventures, Sinovation Ventures and Root Ventures. It has reportedly raised a total of $64.5 million through three rounds of fundraising.

Seismic Enters DTC Market With Powered Apparel Via Robotics
A look from Seismic’s core wellness suit showing the lumbar area where the computer is located. Courtesy Photo