Superflex is making the Superflex Robot Suit.
The Superflex Robot Suit is meant for the aging population and those with mobility disabilities to use clothing to address their daily challenges.
Wearable tech is often geared toward the super-fit or the able-bodied, whether it’s tracking intense activities or your basic daily step count, but one company in Silicon Valley is focusing instead on building a “smart” suit for the aging population.
Superflex, a Menlo Park, California-based startup that’s just coming out of stealth mode, says it’s working on sensor-equipped, computer-controlled clothing for senior citizens who have trouble with mobility. The suit’s sensors are supposed to be able to track the posture and movement of the body, and rapidly process data to send a motor “assist” when the wearer is leaning forward in a chair, getting ready to stand up, or even starting to raise their arms above their head.
The technology was originally developed at SRI International as part of a program to reduce injuries in soldiers carrying heavy loads, and was recently spun off as its own consumer-focused company.
“We’re calling it ‘intelligent wearable strength,’” said Rich Mahoney, Superflex’s co-founder chief executive officer, in an interview with The Verge. Mahoney, who worked as the head of robotics at SRI International for seven years prior to Superflex, says the team behind the power suit is comprised of both robotics experts and textile and fashion designers. “We’re now identifying more as a clothing innovation company, even though our foundation is in robotics,” Mahoney said.Today Superflex also said that it raised nearly $10 million in a Series A funding round led by Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain. While Mahoney’s first goal is to address the US market, where the 65-and-older population is expected to nearly double from 48 million to 88 million in the next three decades, Superflex also sees a big opportunity in Japan, where people over 65 make up a quarter of the country’s population.
Superflex is not thought to be released until 2018.