Anyone that has bounced around in their Superman Underoos watching Saturday morning cartoons know how a good pair of underwear can lift one’s spirits. Or was it really the sugar laden cereal? Anyway as adults many of us develop lower back problems often during an unexpected situation where we end up moving wrong or lifting something we shouldn’t. A team of Vanderbilt University engineers has created a mechanized undergarment they think will help to proactively keep people from hurting their lower backs, a condition that is estimated to cost $30 billion in medical expenses annually.
The wearable technology seen in the photo is made of sections of durable nylon canvas and other lightweight materials connected by sturdy straps across the center of the back. When worn the undergarment requires a simple double tap to the top to go from normal wear to having the straps engage to provide firm lower back support. When the extra support is not needed you can double tap again to the shirt top which releases the straps making normal movements like sitting easier. It strikes me funny that the device also can be controlled by an app that the team created to engage the smart clothing wirelessly via Bluetooth. Seems like a good way for unintentionally letting someone else get control of your underwear?
To test the underwear the team had 8 volunteers lift 25-pound and 55-pound weights while holding their backs in potentially dangerous positions of 30, 60 and 90 degrees. The team used electronic monitoring tools to monitor the subjects backs particularly their lower back extensor muscles and found a reduced strain of 15 to 45 percent on average for each task. The researchers hope in the future to automate the mechanized undergarment to engage by using electronic monitoring within the wearable device that sensed when there is unsafe stress on the lower back. The underwear will be put in action for the world to see at the American Society of Biomechanics conference in Boulder, Colorado Aug. 8-11, 2017.