January 2022

Inside X – Google’s moonshot factory using Moticon Sensor Insoles and software development platform

Explore Moticon's collaboration with Google X's Smarty Pants project, revolutionizing mobility assistance for the elderly with innovative technology.
Google-X conducting research on exosceletons using Moticon Sensor Insoles for foot dynamics feedback loop

This article is based on information that was published on February 17th 2020 by WIRED magazine.

We couldn’t wait to get hold of publicly available content giving a glimpse of one of the most exciting, yet extraordinary projects Moticon is honored to supply with its technology. The original article itself is very much worth reading, but we take the chance to highlight some touch points with Moticon in particular.

X’s Rapid Evaluation Team, which is one of Google’s, or more correctly Alphabet’s, divisions for new disruptives products is working with Moticon’s OpenGo Sensor Insoles for its code named Smarty Pants project. WIRED states that the idea is to build a pair of assistive trousers that might help the elderly and immobile walk independently. Kathryn Zealand, the team lead, is cited as “The space of ageing in general hasn’t had enough investment” and “The demographics mean it’s going to be a big thing in the future.” 

Kathryn Zealand, of X’s Rapid Evaluation Team, wearing sensors for the Smarty Pants project. (WIRED, 01/12/2022, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/ten-years-of-google-x)

Moticon got its chance with the need for a wearable shoe sensor capable of generating accurate real-time force and pressure distribution data from under the foot. X’s evaluation followed promptly. It is notable that there are only a few commercial systems on the market delivering the required force accuracy – with Moticon, in 2020, probably being the only company providing a validated, slim and fully integrated sensor insole without cables and with open data interfaces.

“By using the sensor data and machine learning,” WIRED further cites Zealand, “the trousers are learning to “see” the stairs, knowing exactly when to apply force.” Zealand hopes that, eventually, soft robotics and material advances might enable a lightweight product a fraction of the weight, with a flexible frame, that could aid a range of mobility issues.

The project shades light on Moticon’s ability to support outside the box developments and integrations with its software development platform OpenGo SDK. Users would not use Moticon’s standard software and apps, but get a rich library of functions to control the sensor insoles for data acquisition and to build their own software for data processing and analysis around it. X is not the only world known customer taking advantage of these options, but probably the best example. It both shows the increasing dynamic of exoskeleton developments and the related need for ground reaction data as well as the importance of open interfaces versus closed systems.

Moticon, in turn, had long before chosen the relatively new, yet extremely powerful Flutter and Proto Buffer technologies to build its own software and software development kits – both were originally engineered by Google.

We call it the irony of faith – and look forward with excitement to the next steps.

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