Conductive Yarn Image
A garment sewn with conductive yarn, with seams connected by wire to a microcontroller. (Credit: Olivia Ruston)

When positioned strategically, garment seams sewn with conductive yarn can be used to accurately track body motion, according to computer scientists. Best of all, these charged seams are able to respond to subtle movements that aren’t picked up by fitness trackers such as watches and wristbands.

In a new study, the Bath researchers found that clothing made with conductive seams can be analysed to identify the wearer’s movements. This could be very helpful in physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and sports performance.”

This project is the first where researchers have experimented with the location and concentration of conductive seams. They found that where seams are placed on a garment, and the number of seams that are added, are important considerations in the design of a movement-tracking smart garment.

The yarn comprises a conductive core that is a hybrid metal-polymer resistive material intended for stretch and pressure sensing. Once incorporated into a garment’s seam, it is activated at low voltages. The resistance fluctuates as body movement varies the tension across the seams.

In the study, the seams were connected to a microcontroller, and then a computer, where the voltage signal was recorded.