In the future, you’ll get to play VR, augmented and mixed reality, or train and run as you use Ichiro Amimori’s Xenoma e-skin compression shirt. This new wearable apparel will give athletes and fitness-focused individuals the ability to wear a shirt that sends data about their bodies to apps as they use their body as a gaming controller for digital use.
Xenoma’s e-skin uses 14 sensors on strategic parts of the upper body to track its positioning and movements. These sensors track the shoulders, thorax, wrist, elbow, scapula, back, axilla — with 2 of each sensor being located on the right and left sides. The e-skin shirt is also equipped with a 6-axis chest piece that clicks into place and monitors your upper body movement and other data like respiration rate and heart rate collected from wireless fitness and activity trackers.
This new and exciting smart apparel has a promising start in sports and athletics training due to its upper body tracking technology. A full range of upper body tracking can help trainers and athletes get a better idea of what’s going on with an athlete or exercisers form or posture when they’re performing an action. This could potentially prevent injuries from misuse and improper technique and could help the wearer to improve and dial in on exercises or modifications that help them reach their goals.
As a wireless wearable, the e-skin shirt can connect to a PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, as well as VR and AR peripherals through Bluetooth. If a wearer wants data about their daily activities or needs to see how far they are pushing themselves during their workout, e-skin’s strain sensors will monitor any flexing and stretching caused by the user’s muscle and joint movement.
Using a Samsung Gear with an e-skin shirt is an example of how e-skin wearers do not need to rely on a VR camera for motion tracking capabilities. Xenoma’s e-skin has been proven to be useful in VR gaming, turning body movements like punching into a controlled action to punch in a game or moving in place to run in VR. This creates a portable and more immersive virtual or mixed environment for the user, leading to more satisfying experiences.
When paired with a specialized app, the shirt has helped athletes analyze and improve their golf swing and has helped wearers improve their posture by giving them warnings that they were off balance. Detection of a physical imbalance will have great potential in physical therapy and is already being used for yoga and creating music by dancing.
I was always told that electricity plus water equals a fried mess and danger, but, e-skin’s shirt is completely machine washable for up to 100 washes. So, if a wearer gets sweaty during a strenuous workout in a VR gym they won’t get shocked during use. Or if the shirt gets stinky from frequent uses, the wearer can simply take it off and clean it in the washing machine. This is great news for future physical therapists and fitness trainers who may want to keep a rotating closet full of e-skin shirts available for their clients.
A significant drawback of this design is it only reads data from muscles in the upper body and fills in movement data for the rest of the body. In my opinion, it would be more thorough and accurate to create wearables that translate information for the mid and lower body muscle system as well.
Another improvement could be seen in extending the 4-hour battery life, for the 3-axis accelerometer and the 3-axis gyro sensors. The 4-hour battery life isn’t realistic when considering that some of their wearers are going to potentially use this tech the entire day. If left unfixed or if it isn’t extended, battery drain is going to be an issue for daily and long-term use.
$5K To Develop
As of today, the public is only able to order Xenoma’s e-skin by ordering a request for their development kit — an e-skin shirt, hub, and SDK. The HTC Vive, Oculus, Google Daydream, and Samsung Gear are all peripherals that developers would be creating apps and games for.
In my opinion, a hefty $5,000 for the shirt and kit, is a huge price to pay for independent developers to access the e-skin compression shirt. The e-skin shirt will likely be attainable by gaming developers and publishers with the funds to afford this development tool.
No matter the price, the e-skin compression and athletic shirt will undoubtedly see fresh and innovative uses in the months and years to come. VRFI looks forward to seeing what Xenoma and e-skin have in store for the future of gaming and fitness.