New smart fabric manufacturer looking to break into defense market.


A new smart fabric used in one of jazz musician Herbie Hancock's electric keyboards could find its way into military gear.

Keith McMillen Instruments has recently spun off a smart fabric company, Bebop Sensors, with the hope of partnering with original equipment manufacturers in the defense, aerospace and other industries, said the founder of both companies, Keith McMillen.

Unlike most other wearable sensors, which typically measure physiological data such as heart rate and respiration, the sensors in Bebop's fabric can also measure other kinds of contact between a person and his or her environment, McMillen said. "We can measure pressure, location, bend, twist, stretch."

That same fabric is used in the QuNeo electric keyboard designed by McMillen and played by professional musicians like Hancock. The instrument is as small as a tablet computer, but the user can modify the sound of a musical note by swiping or putting more pressure on a button, for instance.

To make its smart fabric, Bebop attaches microscopic polymerized conductors into a material. The attachments are flexible and invisible to the naked eye, but when you squeeze the fabric or stretch the fabric, the relationship of these particles changes and...

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