SRI spinoff SuperFlex raises $9.6M to pursue ‘powered clothing’

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A spinoff from the robotic veterans at SRI is making a giant bet on ubiquitous delicate robotics: SuperFlex aims to set up a brand new product category with what it calls “powered clothing.” The company, which initially break up off in April, hopes to have a product to present in just a few months, and has raised almost $10 million to develop it.

Powered clothes, or “intelligent wearable strength” as the corporate also calls it, can be custom clothes with flexible electric motors inbuilt that assist the wearer with everyday tasks like merely standing up and walking around — easy, that’s, for individuals whose muscles and bones are in good condition. But it surely’s totally different from the exoskeletons you might have seen popping out of DARPA and other military-orientated research.

“It isn’t an exercise device, or an industrial device. It’s a wellness device, a personal device,” stated Rich Mahoney, a longtime SRI program director who’s heading the brand new firm, in an interview . “We’re interested in helping people with general independence, people who are starting to lose confidence in their mobility.”

If that sounds just like the more and more numerous seniors around the globe, it’s no mistake. Lead investor Global Brain is based in Japan, the place an getting older population is creating friction between families, generations, and social institutions. The thought of a bit of clothes that may help somebody rise up, carry groceries, and get out of the home is appealing anywhere, but especially there.

“We’ve looked at dozens of companies across the world for one that would truly stand to benefit the Japanese market, and this is the only one that has met our criteria,” stated Global Brain CEO Yasuhiko Yurimoto within the press launch saying the investment.

The initial product, an idea for which is proven above, would improve core energy within the torso, hips, and legs. Users would have the ability to ramp up energy manually in the event that they knew they’d have trouble carrying a load of laundry, for example, however the suit can also automatically detect actions. Many older people have trouble standing up, for example, and the suit might detect the beginnings of that motion and give a lift.

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SuperFlex’s preliminary prototype. The corporate is pursuing far more clothing-like integration now.

Mahoney in contrast it to an electrical bike: power is there once you need it, however in any other case it really works similar to the ordinary model. The clothes itself isn’t going to be bulky or mechanical-looking, either, as early prototypes were.

“We’re able to do what we’re doing because we have this tech from SRI, but our design team, textile experts and fashion designers, they’re coming from the apparel industry,” he stated. “We’re really a clothing company, as opposed to being a robotics company.”

He hinted at “a top design firm” that SuperFlex will likely be working with, however declined to be more specific. Though the older demographic is the preliminary goal one, skilled and athletic applications are additionally under investigation.

As well as to Global Brain, the $9.6 million A round was funded by Horizons Ventures, Root Ventures, Sinovation Ventures, and SRI. The cash will likely be used to bring the product to market, hopefully with a reveal quickly and availability in 2018.

Featured Picture: SuperFlex