21 October 2013
Sensing Success – New talent snaffles awards with high-tech motion sensors
Fledgling high-tech engineering company StretchSense has been announced “Emerging New Zealand Innovator” sponsored by
Unitec Institute of Technology in the New Zealand Innovators Awards announced last week. The company also snatched the
coveted “Innovation in Design and Engineering” award sponsored by James & Wells Intellectual Property Limited.
The Emerging New Zealand Innovator award is given to the organisation that has shown commitment to developing a
new-to-market technology which will transform the way people work and live.
CEO Ben O’Brien says that the StretchSense team are delighted to take out the two popular awards and hope the
recognition will help raise their profile as they work aggressively to grow the business and bring more
StretchSense-enabled products to market.
StretchSense develops small, light soft sensors made of polymers which can be sewn into clothing and give real time
results and personal information about improvements and exercising. The company was incubated at the Biomimetics
Laboratory (Auckland Bioengineering Institute) and began operating late 2012. It secured its first domestic sales in
January followed by US sales in March this year, and now has a customer base across health, sports, animation, portable
electronics and university sectors.
StretchSense sensors are part of a global wave of wearable technology which is transforming the health, film, and sports
industries by simplifying the process of measuring body movement for people and potentially other living creatures.
Ben says, “Until now there has been no way to unobtrusively and comfortably measure the soft deformations of a human
body. Our contribution is making this technology accessible and easy to use so that customers can reliably integrate it
into their products and development cycles.
“Our sensors can transform everyday work in the health, gaming, and sports industries by assisting clinicians and
coaches with goal setting and performance monitoring; helping engineers design devices with quantitative measurements of
human interaction; and enabling film directors to move out of the mo-cap studio.”
The StretchSense sensors can be linked to a Bluetooth sensor transmission circuit that can be used with an app for
android phones. “We can apply it to anything you can measure, because it is so precise and reliable,” says Ben.
In Ben’s view three components are required for successful innovation: customer need, curiosity the best feature of good
engineers, scientists and technologists, and consolidation the exponential process where innovation builds on itself.
He hopes that the innovation at StretchSense will inspire others. “We have innovated to create an accessible stretch
sensor – now others can build on our innovation to solve their own problems.”
StretchSense makes soft stretchy sensors for measuring human body deformation and movement. The beauty of our sensors is
that they do not interfere with natural motion - they are soft, unobtrusive, comfortable, wireless, and easy to use. Our
innovative sensor technology combined with our vertically integrated engineering knowhow has enabled us to capture major
local and international customers in the healthcare, sports training, portable electronics, and motion capture markets.
Prior to founding StretchSense the founding team were working as academics in the Biomimetics Lab at the Auckland
Bioengineering Institute (UoA) where we developed years of experience in working with sensing technology. Since then the
company has generated sufficient revenues to support 2.5 additional staff, secured angel investment, and won two
categories of the New Zealand innovators awards.
Auckland UniServices Ltd
Auckland UniServices Ltd is the largest research and development company of its kind in Australasia and is a
wholly-owned company of the University of Auckland. UniServices manages the intellectual property of the University of
Auckland and is responsible for all research-based consultancy partnerships, contract education and commercialisation.