Superflex, a California-based startup, is currently developing apparel that goes beyond fashion. The company, an offshoot of SRI International, wants to design clothes that assist the wearer with physical activity.
“We’re calling it ‘intelligent wearable strength,'” said Rick Mahoney, co-founder and chief executive office of Superflex, in an interview with The Verge.
These clothes are equipped with sensors and flexible electric motors, which improve natural mobility, but only when they need to. Whenever the wearer performs an action, factors such as posture and movement are detected and quickly analyzed by a computer. Afterward, commands are sent out to aid the wearer in activities like standing up, walking, among others. Superflex envisions these clothes as lightweight, and comfortably worn under any outfit.
Although the thought of a strength-amplifying suit conjures images of Iron Man, the aim of the apparel-robotics startup is actually a lot less glamorous. In another interview with TechCrunch, Mahoney revealed that their main focus was on helping those who have trouble with moving on their own. “We’re interested in helping people with general independence, people who are starting to lose confidence in their mobility.”
This includes a wide range of people, including the elderly, the disabled, chronically disabled children, and even people who do a lot of heavy lifting.
The company is yet to release an initial concept, however. Some issues like design and ergonomics are still to be resolved, but the company hopes to release its first model by 2018. “We are forging a path,” Mahoney said. “We are not helping soldiers fight aliens or people leap from buildings. We want people to live a more productive and confident life.”