(USA)

Phones have been smart for some time; cities, homes, cars, and just about everything else that exists is getting smarter too. But the one everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: smart underwear.

Inspired by the supersuits worn by Batman and his peers, and with a desire to tackle one the world’s most common health problems, back pain, a team of engineers from Vanderbilt University has developed smart underwear.

“I’m sick of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne being the only ones with performance-boosting supersuits. We, the masses, want our own. The difference is that I’m not fighting crime. I’m fighting the odds that I’ll strain my back this week trying to lift my 2-year-old,” said Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the principal investigator on the project.

The team’s smart undergarment uses straps to take the strain when people need it. A simple tap on a shirt is enough to instruct the mechanised underwear to move the straps into a position that provides support – it can also be controlled via an app.

The product aims to prevent rather than treat back problems. It works to take the slack for people who are commonly putting strain on it. This would help reduce the amount of money spent on treatment. In America alone it is estimated that the economy loses around $100 billion in productivity every year due to back problems.

“People are often trying to capitalise on a huge societal problem with devices that are unproven or unviable. This smart clothing concept is different. I see a lot of health care workers or other professionals with jobs that require standing or leaning for long periods. Smart clothing may help offload some of those forces and reduce muscle fatigue,” added Dr Aaron Yang, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.