Computational creativity and the future of AI

The Notch wearable sensor can track the way you move


January 8, 2014

The Notch module in place on a shirt cuff (Photo: Notch)

The Notch module in place on a shirt cuff (Photo: Notch)

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Ever wanted to gauge how much power you can pack into a right hook? If you could wear a sensor network, capable of recording, replaying and analyzing how you moved, it would be a simple thing to figure out. That's what Stepan Boltalin set out to create with Notch, a sensor that you can attach to your clothes at specific points to capture your body's movement data in 3D.

Paired via Bluetooth with a smartphone running an accompanying app, the Notch prototype (currently on display at CES 2014) can track how you run, skate, box or more, for you to review. It even goes beyond just helping users track their movements – you can compare the strength and form of your punch with that of an expert, or set up a haptic feedback component to buzz you when you throw a punch the wrong way.

Under development for more than a year, the Notch modules are lightweight, small (about 1.3 x 1.3 in/3.3 x 3.3 cm) and easily attach to clothes with snap fasteners. The app recommends locations for users to attach Notch modules based upon the movement pattern they wish to analyze.

For instance, placing six Notch sensors appropriately will allows users to track the movements of their upper body, while two Notch sensors per leg and one for the core lets them capture lower body movements with a high degree of accuracy. Beyond giving users a visual look at their own body language, it lets them share or compare their "movement profiles" with friends or competitors in 3D without hampering their activities in any way.

"We see Notch as a technological embodiment of muscle memory," Boltain tells Gizmag. "Functionally Notch records and displays information about your movement. Movement is a very broad field, so quite a few use cases emerge. With Notch you can for example: record the parameters of your punches and kicks if you are a martial artist, track the progress of your basketball throw technique (if you are a basketball player or coach), the list of fitness-related use cases goes on."

Wearable activity and wellness sensors have been steadily entering the market for some time; Jawbone UP, Larklife, Fitbit, Amiigo bracelet and the Archos Activity Tracker are just a few that spring to mind. Accurately capturing and storing a person's specific movement data though, hasn't been as widely explored, and Boltain says that there's a market for those who'd like to know precisely how they skate or dance, and share movement styles, techniques and new moves with others.

"We think that being able to record and access movement data can help people achieve their goals easier and progress in their activity field further and quicker," he states.

Users can review how they skate or dance, and share movement styles, techniques and new mo...

To use the sensor network, the user simply snaps on the Notch modules, starts recording and moves around. The modules use inertial measurement units to capture the user's movements, and algorithms process the captured data. The app uses a skeletal model of the user's body to reconstruct and present them with a 3D visualization of the way they've moved, which can be replayed, downloaded and shared.

To expand or modify the Notch network on the fly, users can add or remove modules anywhere on their body, which is immediately reflected in the captured information. Additionally, the haptic feedback functionality enables users to utilize the Notch sensor network as a corrective device and more.

"Notch includes a small vibration motor so that it can be used as a screen-free notification platform – you get haptic feedback when you perform a particularly good or bad move, for example, kind of like a personal coach," Boltain tells us. "We are really focused on opening as many Notch features via API so that developers can get access to skeletal model, haptic features and RGB LED that come with Notch."

Boltain expects third party developers to create their own unique activity-specific apps by utilizing the Notch movement data. Boltain and his development team are currently working on giving the software the ability to export files in motion capture formats, so that the skeletal model data can be transformed into animations. Early backers can pre-order a Notch sensor for US$49 when the company re-launches its Kickstarter campaign on January 28th.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: Notch

About the Author
Lakshmi Sandhana When Lakshmi first encountered pig's wings in a petri dish, she realized that writing about scientists and imagineers was the perfect way to live in an expanding mind bubble. Articles for Wired, BBC Online, New Scientist, The Economist and Fast Company soon followed. She's currently pursuing her dream of traveling from country to country to not only ferret out cool stories but also indulge outrageously in local street foods. When not working, you'll find her either buried nose deep in a fantasy novel or trying her hand at improvisational comedy.   All articles by Lakshmi Sandhana
1 Comment

Really cool! I was reading the whole article to just find a short final statement about motion capture for animations, which is what I would use this device for. But I guess I have to do some more research as it doesn't say anything about how precise it is. But if you can get a whole body motion capture setup for under $500, that allows free movement and is sufficiently precise, then they have a winner.

10th January, 2014 @ 05:47 pm PST
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