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Revolutionising Physiotherapy with Interactive Digital Fabrics

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Dr Aluna Everitt, a Computer Science and Software Engineering Lecturer at the University of Canterbury (UC), has emerged as a trailblazer in technological innovation. Her pioneering work has centred around creating revolutionary interactive surfaces endowed with extraordinary and distinct attributes. These surfaces exhibit a fusion of stretchability and integrated sensing capabilities. This fusion replicates the inherent properties of the fabric, a feat that underscores the ingenuity of her research.

The genesis of this groundbreaking prototype can be traced back to Dr Everitt’s research sojourn at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. During this transformative period, the initial seeds of her visionary idea were sown, ultimately culminating in the development of a prototype that defies conventional boundaries in technology. Her journey has been characterised by an unyielding commitment to pushing the boundaries of what technology can achieve.

Dr Everitt’s vision extends beyond conventional digital wearables as she seeks to redefine the design and construction principles underlying such devices. Her ultimate goal is to fashion a wearable device that seamlessly integrates with the human body and clothing, exploring practical, real-world applications that involve monitoring and tracking our body’s intricate movements and flexibility.

Dr Aluna Everitt envisioned a groundbreaking solution for individuals undergoing physiotherapy, a domain where maintaining precise exercise form after leaving the clinic can be challenging. The innovative device she has developed, constructed using a desktop multi-material 3D printer, boasts a dynamic material composed of interconnected 3D printed tiles.

Its intrinsic interactive capabilities, seamlessly integrated during printing, set this material apart. Within this digital fabric, electronic components, intricately connected by conductive thread, respond dynamically to the body’s contours and movements, offering a high degree of customisation tailored to individual requirements.

Moreover, the versatility of these digital fabric materials extends to their integration into clothing, such as knee straps. Incorporating small LED lights with battery-powered functionality, these fabric-based accessories illuminate when detecting the correct angle and optimal skin contact.

Her future endeavours are poised to introduce a transformative dimension to physiotherapy and healthcare. Her visionary pursuit involves harnessing the potential of “haptic feedback,” a groundbreaking concept that relies on generating subtle vibrations by miniature motor discs ingeniously embedded within specialised materials.

This pioneering approach holds immense promise in healthcare by substantially improving exercise compliance. It empowers individuals to engage in their physiotherapy routines with a level of precision and confidence previously unattainable, even in the absence of direct supervision.

This innovative methodology circumvents the need for intricate and costly tools and components, paving the way for a more inclusive technological landscape. Collaborating with partners like Alexander Keith Eady and Professor Audrey Girouard at Carleton University, Dr Everitt’s trailblazing efforts culminated in developing her groundbreaking prototype device. This milestone represents a significant stride toward her overarching vision of making advanced technology readily available and user-friendly.

Dr Everitt’s profound mission extends beyond technological innovation; it is a concerted effort to dismantle barriers to progress, foster inclusivity, and catalyse a paradigm shift in the design and implementation of emerging technologies for the more significant benefit of society.

Her aspirations point to a future where technology and healthcare seamlessly converge, ushering in a new era of personalised, effective, and universally accessible physiotherapy support.


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