How fish-inspired wearable tech can protect joints

This fish scale-looking body cast isn't an ordinary accessory.

The wearable technology – called Scaled – mimics fish scales and lizard skin

to protect our joints from injuries

without limiting the freedom of movement.

Design student Natalie Kerres founded Scaled while studying for a double Master’s in Global Innovation Design at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NATALIE KERRES, FOUNDER OF SCALED SAYING: “Scaled is a scaled structure which is mimicking the evolutionary approach of nature. In nature the shape and geometry of scales on a fish are shaped in a way that it’s protecting a fish but also gives it the mobility it needs to still be able to flee from predators.”

The technology offers an alternative to currently available protective wearables such as plaster casts or braces…

which limit mobility, can lead to reduced muscle strength and cause discomfort.

Instead, Scaled uses an algorithm to customize the interlocking protective scales and their structure for each individual wearer.


“Depending on which area of the body you want to protect, is it the wrist, is it the spine, is it the knee? You put in the type of joint you want to protect then you put in the maximum range of motion. So for my wrist that’s about 90 degrees and anything beyond that point is causing harm so I want to prevent that from happening. So these are parameters that I put into the algorithm and the algorithm will then calculate each individual's scale geometry within the whole structure. And by changing each individual scale the whole structure’s properties will change just like in nature and therefore provide the customised solution exactly fitting the user’s needs and giving the support that the user will need for the activity rather than being completely rigid and limiting for anything else.”

Kerres hopes her invention could help athletes who are looking to protect and support a vulnerable body part such as the spine or wrist.

VARIOUS OF FITNESS INSTRUCTOR HELEN BARR WEARING SCALED PATCH AND LIFTING A DUMBELL18 (SOUNDBITE) (English) HELEN BARR, FITNESS INSTRUCTOR, SAYING: “I can imagine people in the sports industry having this. I play netball and we see a lot of knee injuries in netball so in the future I reckon this could be the new way to help with injuries whether it’s in the gym. Like I say I play netball so it’s really beneficial for knee injuries, ankle injuries as well. Maybe something that major sports teams can use in football, rugby, something for the physios to look at.”