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EmTech: Reebok and MC10 will Launch an Impact-Sensing Skullcap for Sports

A flexible electronics startup, MC10, lifts the veil on its first commercial product, in partnership with Reebok.
October 24, 2012

MC10, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that makes flexible electronics capable of conforming to skin (and, someday, organs), just announced its first product: a sports skullcap that will measure impacts in a bid to fight concussion and other traumatic brain injury.

The new device, made in collaboration with Reebok, will be made commercially available to consumers next year but will be described tomorrow morning by David Icke, MC10’s CEO, when he appears at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference, also in Cambridge.

The company announcement this morning did not provide photos or exhaustive detail about the system.  Presumably it will include one or more accelerometers wired up with MC10’s “stretchable” electronics. These electronics often consist of ultrathin gold electrodes that flex and stretch with the body.

In contrast to some prototypes that adhere to the skin, the technology will be encased in a breathable mesh skullcap that will fit under helmets, according to the announcement.  It will provide “a visual measurement of force of impact, essentially serving as an extra set of eyes on the playing field.” The technology “is designed to direct athletes on a pathway to assessment to determine if medical treatment or rest is needed before resuming play,” the release says.

How the data will get out of the headgear and be evaluated is something that Icke may describe tomorrow. In a recent photo essay in Technology Review (see “Making Stretchable Electronics”), we explained the company’s approach in detail.  Many of its technologies are based on materials science from the lab of John Rogers at the University of Illinois.

Fighting concussions is a good place to start with this type of technology. Head impacts are particularly dangerous to children, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls sports-related concussions a serious public health threat.  Brain trauma is also an often-hidden epidemic on the battlefield (see “Brain Trauma in Iraq”).

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