このパワードクロージングのプロトタイプは、2018年に商用化され発売される見込みだ。同社は1年前にシンクタンクの SRI International のロボティクスラボからスピンアウトし、日本のグローバル・ブレインがリードしたラウンドで960万ドルを調達している。
Superflex は今日、Béhar 氏が Superflex にオフィシャルアドバイザーとして加わることも発表した。Superflex のスーツのコンセプトは、ロンドンの New Old 展示会で、同社にとってパワードクロージングのビジョンの初の公開プレゼンテーションの中で披露された。そのビジョンとは、クロージングを着用した人が、日常活動に自信を持てるようにするというものだ。軽量で、インターネットに接続され、〝電動の筋肉〟として機能するこのスーツは、着用者の胴体、尻、足にウェルネス支援（健康創出）を提供するよう設計されており、起立や着席をするときなどに力を貸してくれる。
Béhar 氏はデザイン、サステイナビリティ、テクノロジー、起業精神のテーマで頻繁に登壇・発言している。これまでに、Design Miami / 2015 の「Design Visionary Award」、ロンドンデザイン博物館の「今年のデザイン賞（Design of the Year）」、クーパー・ヒューイット国立デザイン博物館の「National Design Award」、アメリカ・インダストリアル・デザイナー協会の「10年間のデザイン賞（Design of the Decade Award）」、国際デザインアワード協会の「今年のデザイン賞（Design of the Year）」、コンデナストの「今年のトラベラーデザイナー賞（Traveller Designer of the Year）」など、300以上の賞を受賞している。最近では、タイム誌が選ぶビジョナリーのトップ25人、Forbes が選ぶ世界で最も影響力のある工業デザイナーにも選ばれた。
When we talk about designing for an aging population, the standard approach has been to provide aid in the home– completing tasks, welfare modules, accommodating lack of mobility, which results in a life lived more statically. While these efforts to address ADLs – activities of daily living – are important, they fail to take on the greatest challenge: mobility outside the home. But what about if technology and design could help us continue to move about the world and engage with it physically, socially and emotionally? This is the question Superflex is answering with ‘Aura Powered Clothing’ being presented for the first time at the breakthrough ‘New Old’ exhibition at the London Design Museum.
Powered Clothing is the brainchild of Superflex – a start-up that was birthed in the Robotics Lab at SRI in Palo Alto. We partnered with the Superflex team on the design and application of their groundbreaking technology. The result is a wearable powered suit with function and details that showcase the technology within. The design emphasizes wearability, beauty and details, while integrating the complexities and ingenuity of the system.
Our goal in designing for the New Old exhibition at the Design Museum is to show what technology can do for an aging population right now.
The New Old exhibition is the perfect setting for presenting this new concept. Designing to solve for the lack of mobility due to muscle weakness, balance issues, and coordination problems that all too often makes the elder population a captive of their own homes is an important challenge. With motors, sensors, and artificial intelligence embedded into a lightweight and flexible fabric, Superflex’s Aura Powered Clothing provides support for the user’s torso, hips and legs. It reacts to the body’s natural movements, adding muscle power to naturally complement the user’s strength in getting up, sitting down or staying upright. In fact, Powered Clothing amplifies an individual’s ability to move freely in the world. Over time, the potential is to actually improve muscle strength, balance and coordination for the wearer. Movement begets progress. The suit, including its embedded hardware, will be insignificant in weight and deliver an exponential amount of strength.
While most robotic technology and AI bring up dystopian notions, we have specifically designed the Aura Powered Suit to be easily adoptable and promote daily use for the elderly.
Using biomimicry, the suit configuration is anatomically aligned with the natural muscular composition of its wearer. With maximum comfort in mind, the hard technology components such as motors, batteries and control boards are designed into hexagonal low-profile pods. These pods are attached to fabric origami fold-ins that allow movement in 3 dimensions, permitting the hardware to expand, contract and move with the wearer. This enables a modular and scalable system that adapts to different user muscular needs and heights. The hardware pods are removable to make the garment cleanable.
While the technology inside of the pods is complex, the actual fabric itself is designed with beautiful intricacies to enhance its functionality. For the suit to deliver its assisted movement, it has to grip the body while being comfortable. Within the soft, engineered fabric, there is a V-shaped band that holds tightly around certain points on the body in order to maximize ergonomics and lumbar support. While the concept on display highlights this band as well as the mechanics connecting each of the main muscle points, the final suit will be designed with all these elements integrated – an elegant, minimal looking undergarment that hides its technology and intelligence within.
Fuseproject and Superflex are continuing to develop this concept: ensuring it is seamless for older adults to use, easy to clean and put on, and accessible in price. The design and style framework we are building stands apart from the typical aesthetic for the aging market marked by a clinical and “sickroom aesthetic”. Instead of the design and aesthetic framework of products for the aging market that is stigmatizing and reinforces increased marginalization, the materials and design details of the Superflex design are about comfort, performance and style.
Powered Clothing has the clear ability to expand and extend our human potential, providing strength and confidence to participate fully and richly in the world.
Expanding the social lives of an aging population – extending the window during which they can remain independent, active, and connected – is what Superflex and Fuseproject are enabling in the immediate future. We believe that we are on the cusp of liberating a generation from a fate that consigned its predecessors to a life of diminishing expectations. Superflex is innovating a new category of Powered Clothing – smart yet friendly – and invisible – connected wearables that represent, in our view, the future of movement, with profound physical and emotional benefits.
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