Dr. Aluna Everitt, a Computer Science and Software Engineering Lecturer at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC), has pioneered the development of stretchable, sensor-equipped interactive fabric surfaces. The original prototype was conceived during her research visit to Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and she is now dedicated to enhancing its functionality, with potential applications in physiotherapy and healthcare.

Dr. Everitt expressed her motivation behind this endeavor, stating, “There’s already been quite a bit of work in the digital wearables area, and I’m keen to keep working on a new approach to the way this technology is designed and built.”

Her vision entails creating a wearable device that seamlessly integrates with clothing, offering real-world applications by monitoring body movements and flexibility. “Often people having physiotherapy will do their exercises correctly when they’re in the physio appointment, but it can be difficult to keep doing them properly once they get home. This device might be able to help people perform their exercises correctly without the need for physio supervision,” she added.

The dynamic material, crafted using a desktop multi-material 3D printer, consists of interconnected 3D printed tiles. It possesses interactive capabilities that are embedded during the printing process, incorporating electronic components connected by conductive thread. These components respond to body shape and motion and can be customized to meet individual requirements.

The potential applications extend to integrating digital fabric materials into clothing, such as knee straps, featuring small LED lights with batteries that illuminate when they detect the correct angle and skin contact. Dr. Everitt’s forthcoming work will incorporate “haptic feedback” through vibrations from tiny motor disks embedded in the material.

Dr. Everitt, specializing in Human Computer Interaction, has a rich academic background, having conducted research at esteemed universities in the United Kingdom, including the University of Oxford, the University of Bristol, and Lancaster University, where she completed her Ph.D. Her research focuses on democratizing design and making emerging technologies like wearables, robotics, and tangible user interfaces affordable and accessible.

For her prototype device, Dr. Everitt collaborated with Alexander Keith Eady and Professor Audrey Girouard at Carleton University. Her future endeavors in this domain will prioritize digital health applications, with plans to establish a research group at the University of Canterbury and inviting Ph.D. students to join her innovative initiatives.

By Impact Lab