Firstly, the team at Nextiles feel that the term “wearable Technology” is not a precise description. As most people currently understand, wearable technology is limited to sensor pods placed on the body, and not actually worn in the same way as a garment or accessory.
Nextiles, based out of Brooklyn, has conceived of an innovative method to create those sensor pods by actually weaving circuitry into the fabric of a garment itself. By weaving it directly into the garment, a fabric with electrical properties is created. Nextiles Founder-CEO, George Sun, says that the IP is not actually about the materials, but focused more on how to weave it into a garment to make it a sensor or circuit.
George Sun is a PhD in bioengineering at MIT, and worked on a project with sports brand Puma at the University Design Lab. While graduating, Sun started his company Nextiles to integrate technology into sports, using a universal wearable, i.e., clothing.
Nextiles first product is a wearable baseball elbow sleeve, named the KP Sleeve that was designed and manufactured along with KineticPro Performance, a tech training company in Florida. The idea to explore baseball begun when Sun met a student at MIT who was interning for a Major League Baseball pitcher. The company produced a few versions of the sleeve for the pitcher, who in turn, invested in Sun’s company.
Make your game wearable
The company now focuses on basketball, tennis and baseball for its range of wearable technology sports clothing accessories.
Currently, compression clothing for the knee and arm are being produced, and research is being conducted on a sensor-sock that can provide ground reaction forces amongst others. Nextiles utilizes Newtonian principles to capture data like power, force and angular velocity, to name a few.
Sun explained that the data the company was currently capturing is mechanical, including measuring the fabric for stretching, bending and twisting.
Casey Mulholland, the Founder of KineticPro Performance, utilized his expertise in coaching pitchers and enhancing that with various software tools. The KP Connect app, built by his company, is a bespoke management system to enhance training using various inputs. Mulholland, at the time, was looking for hardware that could track throw counts and exertion of the pitcher.
The existing product on the market – Pulse – utilized classic IMU sensors to collate data. The KP sleeve however, extends from inner to outer elbow, also covering portions of the forearm and triceps. This enables direct measurement, in contrast to the existing product which uses algorithmic calculations.
Mulholland says that the technology provided by Nextiles allows them to calculate day load from the data points. Along with the app, the company has a lot of filters and structure to calculate and project athlete load management.
The Chief Business Officer for Nextiles, John Peters stated that the company does not prefer to refer to these products as wearable technology. He added that the company had several other projects that were traditionally non-wearable items.
One of the first non-wearable products that the company has worked on is an alternative to the industry-standard force plate, which is a data collecting slab to assess movements and play protocols.
While mentioning that current force plates are bulky and expensive, Peters said that Nextiles is actually using pressure mats, which make it akin to laying a bath towel. In theory, once the technology is proven, it can be laid onto bigger surfaces, including the size of a regular playing field. It can also be incorporated into a range of other materials.
Nextiles is being described as a materials science company that is making fabrics smart. From elbow sleeves to bedsheets and socks, the wide potential of the technology is undeniable.
All Nextiles products are machine-washable and retain all the properties of modern sports gear. Although targeted data collection is the objective, the technology is said to be scalable, within limits. Denying that the company just wants to deliver an “Ironman” suit, Sun said that it was a lot easier to produce when told exactly what needs to be measured.