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Sometimes you want your technology to be fast, sleek, eye-catching, and responsive. And other times? You want to be able to throw it into the wash because it got a little sweaty.

In the case of Organic Robotics Corporation (ORC), you want all of the above.

The Cornell startup specializes in creating soft, stretchable fiber-optic sensors that can be woven into clothing to recognize different types of touch. The wearable technology is proving to be ideal for measuring motion, respiration, and fatigue in athletes, with the aim of reducing injuries and improving training and performance.

Now, a collaboration with Cornell’s Performance Apparel Design Lab is taking ORC’s technology to a different field: monitoring the stamina and attention of airplane pilots, astronauts, and other highly stressed individuals working in harsh environments.

While these applications seem like natural fits for ORC’s technology, they didn’t start that way.

“Translating a technology from a lab is difficult,” said Rob Shepherd, associate professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering, who co-founded the company with ORC’s CEO Ilayda Samilgil ’19. “Usually a company will listen to problems and then find solutions to those problems. But when you’re doing it from a lab, you have a solution, and you’re trying to find a problem.”

group tests tecchnology in lab

Organic Robotics Corporation CEO Ilayda Samilgil, Huiju Park, associate professor of apparel design, and ORC mechanical engineer Andres Serrano test their technology at the startup’s lab in Clark Hall. Image courtesy of Cornell Chronicle.

Learn more about Collaboration Is a Good Fit for Wearable Sensor Startup.