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 the Aura Powered Suit – innovative wearable technology that 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.
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.