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    Rights: University of Waikato. All rights reserved.
    Published 27 November 2014 Referencing Hub media

    Associate Professor Iain Anderson is Group Leader for the Biomimetics Laboratory and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Auckland. Iain and StretchSense CEO Dr Benjamin O’Brien explain the development and commercialisation of their artificial muscle technology – a stretchable capacitive sensor. While artificial muscle technology has been around for some time, Iain and his team have further developed the technology, creating an innovative new product for the market – a stretchable capacitive sensor that measures body motion.


    Associate Professor Iain Anderson
    We’re been working with a type of artificial muscle material called the dielectric elastomer, and we started working with this in 2005. We identified that there was a lot of progress to be made in the control of charge on these artificial muscle materials.

    Dr Benjamin O’Brien
    Artificial muscle technology has been around for a while, and our contribution to the field was to take the sort of raw components of that – take the materials engineering, take the electronics, take the software and bring it all together in one package. At its most basic form, what we build is a rubber band with Bluetooth. It’s a stretchy piece of material, you stretch it, and then we connect the Bluetooth transmitter to it, which transmits information about that stretch to your smartphone – so it’s a rubber band with Bluetooth.

    This is fantastically exciting if you want to measure human body motion. So you can take this sensor and stick it onto the body, onto clothes, on shoes, into medical devices, and you can measure body movement for health and rehabilitation. For example, after an injury or surgery, a physio can track how well you’re doing at exercise.

    Associate Professor Iain Anderson
    What we have been focusing on in this laboratory is ways of controlling that process using electronics by marrying electronics to the artificial muscle material.

    Dr Benjamin O’Brien
    One thing Uniservices did really well is they created an environment where we could actually sort off cut our commercial teeth, right. We played with different business ideas, different companies, we talked to different people. I’m very grateful for that.

    Associate Professor Iain Anderson
    We’re witnessing a revolution away from gearboxes – rigid mechanisms with limited degrees of freedom – towards mechanisms which are soft, they can easily bend around corners. If you drop them, they won’t shatter.

    Dr Benjamin O’Brien
    Iain’s extremely loyal, an extremely good kind of protector of his team. You know, when I first started, I didn’t realise how much value that that had. You have to work together, otherwise you won’t succeed. That’s been a real lesson to me, and so I kind of … I value that a lot about Iain.

    Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
    © Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2013