Seismic, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup formerly known as Superflex, today unveiled its Powered Clothing line. And the company wants you to know: this is not an exoskeleton.
Seismic CEO and co-founder Rich Mahoney, well-respected in robotics circles, says the Powered Clothing “fuses discreet robotics with textiles” to act as an extension of the human body. Seismic says this will assist people with everyday activities, including carrying and lifting items, hiking, standing up, extending standing, sitting down, walking and more. Mahoney tells The Robot Report some beta users even wore the Powered Clothing while playing golf.
Reacting to the body’s natural movements, the Powered Clothing suit uses tiny motors, which Seismic calls “robotic muscles,” to provide up to 30 watts of power to each hip and the lower back. The suit weighs 5.5 lbs and is a little bulky in the “strength layer” on the outer legs that house the batteries. Mahoney tells The Robot Report Seismic Powered Clothing could become smaller when production gets closer, which the company hopes will occur in limited fashion in 2019. “It can’t feel like a medical device,” Mahoney acknowledges.
The clothing emits about 40 decibels of sound, which Seismic wants you to know is “less than a whisper.” While that is quiet, a constant noise could be an annoyance, depending on the user and activity. Mahoney says the Seismic Powered Clothing can be worn as either a base layer underneath clothes or be worn like activewear at a gym.
There are three muscle patches (left, right and lower back) that each have an integrated force sensor and a lithium-ion battery that lasts about eight hours. The batteries can be removed for changing or charging. The lower back patch also has a processor to control the entire suit and process the real-time data and activity tracking (more on that in a moment). Seismic Powered Clothing also has three IMUs, temperature sensors, and Bluetooth, LTE, and WiFi connectivity.
Seismic initially wants to help people who are generally healthy and independent, but could use a little extra support in their core. The technology was originally developed at SRI International for a DARPA-funded program to reduce injury risk and enhance soldier endurance.
“We’ve watched technology evolve and have not seen products become available,” Mahoney says. “It’s still hard, but we’re interested in changing people’s perspective on what’s possible with robotics. This product can be very personal and available sooner than people realize.”
Is Seismic Powered Clothing an exoskeleton?
Seismic Powered Clothing essentially functions as a consumer exoskeleton, but Mahoney and company will not refer to it as such. Part of this is due to the fact Seismic created something less bulky than a typical exoskeleton. The exoskeleton market is still nascent and has not taken off like many expected. And the term “exoskeleton” is not exactly sexy for the activewear market, which Morgan Stanley said reached $97 billion in sales in 2015.
“We understood early on that everyone wears clothing, but nobody wears robots,” he says. “We want to bring new functionality to clothing, but maintain that relationship of comfort, functionality and emotion.”
Several consumer robotics companies failed recently, namely Jibo and Mayfield Robotics. Perhaps this is another reason why Seismic is positioning itself as an apparel company. Mahoney knows the key to any product is the value it provides relative to the cost. He says pricing will be inline with designer-grade apparel. He adds that initially the Powered Clothing will be available in limited placement. Large production runs will help drive down the cost, and Seismic is still looking for a manufacturing partner to help it scale.
“This is not designed to make you run faster or jump further. It is designed for everyday people to add extra support,” he says. “We focused on this design first because of mobility, which is a huge need for the aging population, people with back injuries or sports injuries, or people who are on their feet all day for work.”
Seismic raised $22.5 million in funding since it spun out of SRI International in 2015. Its lead investor, Global Brain Ventures, is based in Japan, where an aging population is a major problem.
Seismic Powered Clothing tracks wearer data
The suit can track a lot of a wearer’s activity, including the wearer’s posture and when the wearer stands up, sits down, etc. It automatically understands the movement of the wearer and automatically adjusts the power assistance based on known programming.
Seismic, which rebranded in August 2018 and was originally known as Superflex, recently acquired the intellectual property (IP) of Lumo Bodytech, a motion science company known for its posture-correcting and fitness devices. Lumo’s legacy products have been discontinued, Mahoney says, but its machine learning algorithm lives on and will help Seismic better control its suit and tailor the experience to each wearer.
“Our machine-learning and data science work has already surfaced some very key insights on how people move their bodies in everyday activities like sitting, standing and walking,” Mahoney said at the time of the acquisition. “Lumo’s IP will strengthen our existing capability to create a symbiotic user experience through data on the quality of movement.”
“The software will recognize who is wearing it based on how you’re moving,” Mahoney said, referring to how the machine learning will help down the road. “Someone else could put your suit on and the suit will recognize it is someone different based on movement.”
Seismic Powered Clothing will have a dashboard that tracks all this data in real-time, but wearers will have to pay to access the information. Mahoney said this approach is similar to the robotics as a service (RaaS) model many robotics companies employ.
“Imagine a suit you’ve worn for 10 years and how much it’ll learn about you,” Mahoney says.
Collecting data about your users opens up privacy concerns, of course. “We need to use state-of-the-art security practices that are available for any IOT-enabled product,” Mahoney says. “We are taking in all those requirements and building those into our system. Data will be valuable to many different industries, but we’re not doing anything with the data at first until we understand the value it provides.”
Multidisciplinary environment on steroids
How do you bring new functionality to clothing such as muscle strength and core mobility while still maintaining the relationship with what you wear in terms of comfort, aesthetics, an emotion? For Seismic, the “symbiosis” user experience extends to their workroom.
The Robot Report visited Seismic’s office in Menlo Park, Calif. last week. And in a development space that is half fashion design and half electromechanical robotics, employees are constantly interacting and feeding off of one another to create something that fuses apparel and robotics. Seismic has assembled a team of experts in textile innovation, robotics, biomechanics, and AI that are all working on the suit together, putting their stamp on its look, feel, control, and user experience.
“We are designing two mass-produced types of products – consumer electronics and apparel – and they are both so different in terms of process, documentation, and language. So we have to work on documenting what we are doing from a power clothing point of view and create company processes and culture around that perspective,” says Mahoney. “There is no meeting of two or three people here. When we are working on a system, we need 10 people in the room and we need them all to be talking to one another.”
Future applications for Seismic Powered Clothing
Seismic’s initial value proposition is strength and movement assistance, for everyday activities, but the team is thinking about how the data it collects can open up new markets in the future.
“We’re looking at anyone who can get value from this,” Mahoney admits. “We do have some early work looking at applications for muscular dystrophy, which will be the first medical area for kids’ day-to-day life that we look at.”
Seismic Power Clothing currently is designed for adults, but Mahoney said that will change, too. He also talks about extending the Powered Clothing down to the knees and ankles and up to the shoulders and arms. Professional sports was another market briefly discussed as athletes could potentially benefit from some of the activity data the suit tracks.
“Our customers are people with a body who wear clothes,” Mahoney quips.
Aimee Kalnoskas, Editor, EEWorld, a sister publication of The Robot Report, contributed to this story.
Charles Noll says
Hi, love the concept. Would like to know more on how the muscles of the system work.
I just turned 80, have a trim body and good overall strength in my upper body, but have slow reaction in my thigh muscles.
Linda williams says
Hello I just can not wait until this is for sale. I am will to test the wearable clothes, for free. I am 67 years old and I need to be able.to sit stand up and walk long distance. I am very excited please hurry , make this for sale now
Rose Marie Mansheim says
I am 81 years old and have spinal stenosis and a loss of balance. I go to chiropractic therapy once a week and I look forward to your marketing of this clothing. This would help me develop my leg muscles to better control the tippiness I have as I try to remain a functioning person. I look forward to hearing when you will be in full production.
Donna Latrell says
I have chronic lower back problems, and every time I try to strengthen my core, you guessed it, my back goes out and I’m down for weeks. I have always been fairly active, so these bouts drive me crazy. I was a flight attendant for 33 years, and until recently because of back problems walked 4 miles a day. A torn meniscus has also put a damper on that. I would love to know when this device can be purchased. I am MORE than interested!
Gail Dietz says
These robotic seismic clothes are very exciting! I am 82 and have always been very active. I had a stroke a few years ago and with lots of physical therapy have had much recovery success. However, I still have one leg that is weak and the muscles do not work well. Walking is difficult. This product sounds promising! I am 5’1″ and about 100 lbs. Do you have anything that could help?
Mark Kehler says
Hello, what is your NYSE
Linda Quilici says
My husband has severe back issues. He can not walk very far due to pain. This suit would be beneficial to his health and well being. Please let us know when they are for sale. If you need him to wear one for testing he is willing.
Thank you for your time.
Teresa Olander says
WANT!!!! My 87 year old mother needs this! Please contact me as soon as the next generation becomes available.
Kathleen Andrechick says
My husband is 62 years old. He is the hardest worker I have ever known. We own a relatively small painting company and we work almost 365 days a year. Naturally all of this physical work has taken a significant toll on his body. He has herniated discs at C4 & 5, T3 & 4, L3, 4 & 5. He has had 2 back surgeries on L4&5 without any real success. He now has a stimulator implanted in his lower back with leads directed towards the nerves at L4 & 5. This is not working either. Currently the Dr. and the stimulator Rep. Believe that the leads have moved out of position and want to go in and readjust the leads. We are very skeptical of having yet another procedure; there are many risks involved as Im sure your aware of. I believe that my husband would benefit greatly from your product. He is willing to be a test subject if this is possible. Please, please let me know how, where, when we can get this product ASAP.
Gail Cada says
I just read a article in AARP about your robot under clothing. Omg! If I had this several
Years ago I would not have had to retire from nursing. As a RN for 40 years my work took a toll on my body. My spine is fused. Back surgery x2 made it impossible to work any longer. I worked one whole year depending on a a tens I wear day in An day out. Because of scaring post surgery I
Developed neuropathy. Now my ability to walk, is difficult. The pain is all full. So now all those year of hard work I have been rewarded with decreased mobility An continuous pain . An you know the conquests of decreased mobility. Weight gain and the diseases that go with it. Any way I
Just wish I had these years ago . Even today to increase my mobility an decrease my pain. But living on a fixed pension I
Could never afford one. Wishing you
The best for your work an improvement of one’s life.
James Cappellett says
I am an active 76 year old Male who has been a adaptive ski instructor for 25 years it has taken it toll on my back and knees would love to try this unit out. I read the article in AARP MAGAZINE. I also love biking.
This sounds like a perfect fit for me.
ladonna Leonard says
Very very interesting! Hair stylist for 40 years. I am 73 and haf se ete spinal stenosis in bottom of L3 and top of L 4 a few years ago at spinal laser institute it cost me 13000 dollars. I now have very tight and sore muscles on eirher side of my spine. I am under a lot of family stress which doesnt help. How much is this and where can i purchase it.??
SYD MEAD says
I am 86, male and have reasonable upper body strength but both knees are weak. The left one cannot support any weight other than straight standing alignment. I am fascinated by the possibility of movement augmentation and would like to know more.
I live in Pasadena, California in my own home
Maryvonne MAVROUKAKIS (moi) says
I live in the Washington DC area. I have had 3 back surgeries and although I want and try to walk, I am in pain after 30-45 minutes. Is there a place in the DC area where one could try this equipment?
Judy Neverly says
I think this is a god send. I Had a hip replacement 51/2 years ago and a nerve impinged in my hip. My orthopedic surgeon did not believe that it was in the hip, even though an MRI of my back showed there was no impingment seen in my back. Making the story short, 4 months after surgery I lost my hamstring and calf muscles, which now is affecting my knee, as the joint has no support from the missing muscles..If you need somebody to try this out, count me in..Would also buy one, if the price is within reason. Thanks for such a great invention.
Harriette Elisco says
Where can I purchase?
Joe Richie says
Very interested in further informationabout performance, availability, and cost .
Delbert G. Carr says
We have fshmd in our family. My 47 year old dayughter requires someone to put her to bed and get her up, she still works 2 jobs out of a electric wheel chair. My 53 year old son requires a electric wheel chair but is able to stand some with some assistance. I am 76 and walk bent way over. We are by no ways a wealthy family but anything we could afford to buy that would help our sittuation would be so much appreciated. Again please keep up the trials and testing but remember the many people that need help staying mobile and what would be a real miracle is helping someone such as my daughter who has no mobility and can not move her body parts at all. Thank you very much.
I would be willing to wear the clothes in a trial for free. I had 2 back fusions and now my discs are collapsing on one side. That makes it impossible for me to walk very far. I can hardly wait until you market this stuff. I will definitely purchase it so I can walk again. Hurry though I am 75 years young
Ann McDonald says
I am 82 and need all the help I can get. Please advise when this product is available to the public. Thx. Ann McDonald
John Karmazin says
I would be extremely interested in this apparel. I have injuries to my lower back, cervical spine, shoulders, and knees. All of these areas have been surgically corrected but the results long term have not been good. I was extremely active prior to my injuries. I still try. Chronic pain, and I’m talking severe really put a damper on my life. Most of my issues come from a weak core.
My motto in life is “Never Stop Moving”.
Currently I can not walk 100 yards without dibibilatating pain. I push through it.
My goal at this point is to be able to hike/ walk 2-3 miles to return to an activity that my wife and I love to do together. We have been together 43 years and always have enjoyed our time on the trail. I, we miss it.
As I said my interest is high.
At 65 I’m not ready to stop. I would be willing to be a test subject also.
Jacque Vasko says
Have osteoporosis and spinal arthritis and need help walking, bending over, etc. I hurt constantly. It would be a miracle to have this type of physical help. Where will it be for sale and how much will the cost be?
I initially hurt my back while serving overseas. I have not lived without pain in my adult life. I am now close to 69 years of age with my initial injury to my back fifty years ago. I have had operations on my lower back through the VAMC. My strong will to survive the pain enables me to do many things many others with similar conditions would not be able to do. I do not want to slow down as I have seen elders within my own family who do so and have dire consequences. Hopefully you will be able to work with the insurance industry and get your device approved so those of us on fixed incomes will be able to get your suit through our insurance policies.
Roberta Bouvette says
I’m from Oregon with MS. 65 yr old. I’m like all the others, will be a tester, will buy, am anxiously waiting. Look forward to hearing more.
I love this technology and am also interested in stock as well as the product itself, is it possible to post your responses to above comments, its future availability date and est cost.
Trish Sims says
I need one of these suits so badly, I’m 70 years old and have had two back surgeries and a dissected aorta. My core is so weak, I am beginning to walk humped over. Please tell me how I can get one,
Michael J Hicks says
I read about this Seismic robotic underwear in AARP. I will be 83 January 2nd. I would like one of these suits. I have been athletic and active all my life but this suit would allow me to do things physically that I have had to slow down on. I would love to be able to buy one of these suits.
Kiho Cho says
Hello. I am 63 years old. I got a major car accident. I got a C4 and C5 fracture. I got a little disability of left leg. I need your products. I want to buy it.
How, where and when can I get it?
Please let me know 🙏