MIT scientists have recently developed intelligent textiles that are comfortable and form-fitting fabric. This smart textile senses how its users are moving. It can recognize its wearer’s activities, like walking, running, and jumping.

They used a particular type of plastic yarn and melted it. This process is known as thermoforming. In doing so, scientists could significantly improve the precision of pressure sensors woven into multilayered knit textiles, which they call 3DKnITS.

Using this process, they created a smart shoe and mat. Later, they measured and interpreted data from the pressure sensors in real-time operating newly developed hardware and software systems. With an accuracy rate of roughly 95%, the machine-learning algorithm anticipated the movements and yoga positions a person would make while standing on the smart textile mat.

To fabricate their smart textile, scientists took advantage of digital knitting technology. The technology allows rapid prototyping and can be easily scaled up for large-scale manufacturing.

The digital knitting machine weaves layers of fabric with rows of standard and functional yarn. The multilayer knit fabric is made of a piezoresistive knit that changes resistance when squeezed, sandwiched between two layers of conductive yarn knit. The machine stitches this useful yarn in horizontal and vertical rows across the fabric in accordance with a pattern. A pressure sensor is made where the functional fibers cross.

But yarn is soft and pliable, so the layers shift and rub against each other when the wearer moves. This generates noise and causes variability, making the pressure sensors much less accurate.