AI and Textiles: It’s already here

By Janet Preus

Editor’s note: Two researchers with expertise in advanced technologies—and smart textiles, in particular—responded to questions about artificial intelligence and its future in the industry. Irmandy Wicaksono (IW) is a research assistant in the MIT Media Lab and lead author of a paper presenting 3DKnITS. Caitlin Knowles, Ph.D., (CK) is an e-textile device engineer with the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA).

Q: I’m interested in where the intersect of smart materials and artificial intelligence can, or is most likely, to happen. What can AI offer smart materials that can’t be provided with current (or developing) technologies?

IW: Smart materials integrated with sensing and computational capabilities are paving the way for advanced textiles and garments including those that can seamlessly and wirelessly monitor our physiology and physical activity. Our research on the Electronic Textile Conformable Suit (E-TeCS) exemplifies this direction: to change the way we do healthcare from curing to preventing and constant care, demonstrating its application for telemedicine. Leveraging AI will help us make sense of and recognize patterns from the extensive and continuous “big data” captured from these smart garments’ multimodal sensors, thereby advancing health and sports analytics. 

We have recently demonstrated the fusion of AI and smart textiles in our work on the 3DKnITS project, where we utilize deep learning—typically employed in image and audio processing—to analyze a large dataset of pressure images from our smart mat and shoes for real-time recognition of body postures, exercises and activities. As we gather more data at individual, collective and environmental scale through these ubiquitous smart materials, the importance of AI in processing this complex data and facilitating interventions will become clearer.

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