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Smart Pants

BLACKSBURG, Va. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- You get a cell phone call and your sleeve answers it. You want to know how far you jogged and your pants tell you. Smart clothes are the latest trend to come down the runway.

Can't decide what to wear? Wish your clothes were smart enough to decide for you? Now, electronics and computer science technology may help your clothing think.

Mark Jones, Ph.D., a computer scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, says, "We view electronic textiles as, sort of, where computing meets the fabric."

This high-tech marriage is breeding the latest in wearable computers, like pants that detect movement and let a computer know your every move.

A loom helps sew the wires and fabric together. Then sensors embedded in the fabric measure the speed, rotation and flexibility of the pants with every movement. Wireless signals are sent from the pants to a computer to display the activity.

Tom Martin, Ph.D., also a computer engineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, says, "E-textiles are a way for us to build wearable computers that look like normal clothing to build pervasive computing devices that fit in seamlessly with the environment."

Researchers also hope wearable computers will help save lives. "We can tell what activity that person is doing. That sort of information is extremely valuable when we're trying to monitor someone with a chronic illness such a heart condition," Jones says. And monitoring your every step is something clever clothing can watch a little easier.

Researchers plan on developing more smart clothes to integrate computers into shirts, hats and gloves.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Dr. Tom Martin
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231 1739
tlmartin@vt.edu


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A joint production of Ivanhoe Broadcast News and the American Institute of Physics. Partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
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