Have you ever checked your phone to see how many steps you’ve logged that day? What about checking how many calories you’ve burned from a wearable device?
Other than being miniaturized, it turns out these technologies haven’t really changed in almost 30 years. Enter Nextiles, who wants to change the way we wear sensors by leveraging the most basic form factor … clothing.
Nextiles, originally funded by the MIT’s Sandbox Innovation Fund, and then later by taking part in the MIT delta v accelerator in 2019, is on a mission to change the way we interact with our surroundings and quantify human movement through clothing. The company blends traditional sewing techniques with printed circuit boards to make flexible material with sensors directly embedded into fabrics, such as your everyday sportswear. Through its patent-protected form factor and designs, Nextiles’ fabrics allow for complete biomechanical and biometric sensing captured on one platform – no straps, rings, or attachments.
Founder George Sun’s vision for a more connected future was shaped right here in the halls of the Trust Center in 2018 where he received invaluable business mentorship and discovered shortcomings in the wearable market today. Instead of strapping sensors to gain biomechanical insights, what if you could just make your clothes smart? This was the early-day thesis and the foundation for the company’s beginnings.
While working through MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program, Sun was recruited to work as an Embedded Engineer for Puma. Through his early working days, Sun’s initial hunch around the fragmented wearable market was confirmed, and he realized problems could be solved by leveraging basic sewing materials with conductive threads to recreate the wearable industry from the ground up – thread by thread.
“Modern sewing technology is almost 2,000 years old, but the industry in recent decades has been overlooked because our society believes we maximized its utility,” says Sun. “One of the reasons we value fabrics over traditional circuit board technologies is our philosophy of building from the bottom-up. Our industry has coveted smartphones so much that we have grown to become content in wearing them as watches and straps. Rather, Nextiles believes we should instead endow such powers to what we are most familiar with. Revolutionize our clothes, instead of miniaturizing computer chips, by building on top of generation and time-tested fabric materials.”
Nextiles prides itself on pioneering basic threads and sewing machines for its new technology. And while sewing has been offshored and often a forgotten art, Nextiles, now based in Newlab out of Brooklyn, NY, is reinvigorating the sewing industry for the better.
Nextiles’ fabric sensors are force-sensitive which is why the company attracted professional athletes from its early prototyping stages. Through this prototyping process, Sun realized more and more that professional athletes have been left behind in the wearable race. Despite the billions of dollars that go into athlete preparation, athletes are still forced to strap or wrap clunky wearable devices. Further, these devices often have “noisy data” due to human error. Nextiles is on a mission to create a more comfortable form factor, with sensors directly on the skin, to capture robust data sets for professional athletes, teams, and coaches who are seeing a new age of sports analytics ushered in by new technologies.
Through partnerships with professional baseball players and investments by several high net worth individuals, including the same pitchers who used the first generation product, Nextiles is excited to announce the completion of its seed financing, which will be used to fuel further R&D to serve professional athletes in the sports and performance industry.
While Nextiles continues to service the performance industry, the company has begun working with several OEMs to help turn all products smart.
If it can be sewn, it can be smart – That’s Nextiles.
For more information, visit www.nextiles.tech and follow updates by signing up for the company’s newsletter and sample datasets.
Read coverage of Nextiles in this May 3, 2021 Washington Post “Innovations” column.