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United States Patent Application 20180027893
Kind Code A1
Bangera; Mahalaxmi Gita ;   et al. February 1, 2018

PROTECTIVE GARMENT SYSTEMS FOR PROTECTING AN INDIVIDUAL AND METHODS OF USING THE SAME

Abstract

Embodiments disclosed herein relate to systems for automatically protecting an individual from injuries using one or more sensors and one or more protective members, and methods of using the same. The system can include a supportive member supporting one or more protective members. The protective members can include at least one passive layer and at least one active layer. The active layer includes at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy. For example, the system can include at least one energy source that is configured to deliver the stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material. The system can also include one or more sensors configured to sense one or more characteristics. The system can include at least one controller communicably coupled to the energy source and the sensors.


Inventors: Bangera; Mahalaxmi Gita; (Renton, WA) ; Chan; Alistair K.; (Bainbridge Island, WA) ; Cheatham, III; Jesse R.; (Seattle, WA) ; Chin; Hon Wah; (Palo Alto, CA) ; Ishikawa; Muriel Y.; (Livermore, CA) ; Kare; Jordin T.; (San Jose, CA) ; Leuthardt; Eric C.; (St. Louis, MO) ; McKnight; Gary L.; (Bothell, WA) ; Sweeney; Elizabeth A.; (Seattle, WA) ; Wood, JR.; Lowell L.; (Bellevue, WA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Elwha LLC

Bellevue

WA

US
Family ID: 1000002109545
Appl. No.: 15/223816
Filed: July 29, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A41D 13/015 20130101; A63B 2220/808 20130101; A41D 13/081 20130101; A41D 13/0525 20130101; A41D 13/0531 20130101; A41D 13/0518 20130101; A41D 13/0512 20130101; A41D 13/06 20130101; A41D 13/11 20130101; A41D 13/0506 20130101; A63B 71/081 20130101; A63B 2209/08 20130101; A63B 2220/40 20130101; A63B 2220/56 20130101; A63B 2220/53 20130101; A63B 2220/805 20130101; A41D 13/0543 20130101
International Class: A41D 13/015 20060101 A41D013/015; A63B 71/08 20060101 A63B071/08; A41D 13/06 20060101 A41D013/06; A41D 13/11 20060101 A41D013/11; A41D 13/05 20060101 A41D013/05; A41D 13/08 20060101 A41D013/08

Claims



1. A protective garment system for protecting an individual, the protective garment system comprising: a supportive member that is configured to contact one or more body regions of the individual; at least one protective member supported by the supportive member, the at least one protective member including, at least one passive layer; and at least one active layer coupled to the at least one passive layer, the at least one active layer including at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy; at least one energy source operably coupled to the at least one active layer and configured to deliver the at least one stimulus energy; one or more sensors configured to sense at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact of the individual; and at least one controller operably coupled to the one or more sensors and the at least one energy source.

2. (canceled)

3. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the supportive member includes at least one of a garment, a gear, a wrap, or a bandage.

4. The protective garment system of claim 2, wherein the garment includes at least one of a shirt, pants, a suit, footwear, gloves, head covering, or a sleeve.

5. The protective garment system of claim 2 wherein the gear includes at least one of safety gear, tactical gear, or athletic gear.

6. The protective garment system of claim 2, wherein the at least one protective member is positioned on the supportive member to at least partially protect at least a portion of at least one of an abdominal region, a spinal region, a back region, or a thoracic region.

7. The protective garment system of claim 2, wherein the at least one protective member is positioned on the supportive member to at least partially protect at least a portion of at least one of a hand, an arm, or a shoulder.

8. The protective garment system of claim 2, wherein the at least one protective member is positioned on the supportive member to at least partially protect at least a portion of at least one of a foot, a leg, or a pelvic region of the individual.

9. The protective garment system of claim 2, wherein the at least one protective member is positioned on the supportive member to at least partially protect at least a portion of at least one of a head, a face, or a neck of the individual.

10-17. (canceled)

18. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one protective member is at least partially formed from a plurality of segments, the plurality of segments includes the at least one passive layer or the at least one active layer.

19-23. (canceled)

24. The protective garment system of claim 18, wherein, at least some of the plurality of segments includes the at least one active layer; and the at least one energy source is operably coupled to each of the at least some of the plurality of segments.

25. The protective garment system of claim 24, wherein each of the at least some of the plurality of segments includes at least one energy source disposed therein or thereon.

26. The system of claim 18, wherein at least some of the plurality of segments are communicably coupled together.

27. The system of claim 26, wherein at least one of the at least some of plurality of segments includes the at least one controller disposed therein or thereon, and the at least one controller is communicably coupled to another of the at least some of the plurality of segments.

28. (canceled)

29. (canceled)

30. The system of claim 18, wherein, the at least one active layer includes the plurality of segments; and the plurality of segments includes at least one independent segment, the at least one independent segment includes the at least one energy source, the one or more sensors, and the at least one controller disposed therein or thereon; wherein the at least one controller is configured to direct the at least one energy source to active the at least one energy-responsive material of the at least one active layer of the at least one independent segment responsive to the one or more sensors of the at least one independent segment sensing the potential impact or the actual impact against the at least one independent segment.

31. (canceled)

32. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material exhibits a viscosity that changes responsive to the at least one stimulus energy.

33. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material increases or decreases volume responsive to the at least one stimulus energy.

34. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material changes a shape responsive to the at least one stimulus energy.

35. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one physical property includes at least one of elastic modulus, shear modulus, yield strength, or density.

36. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material includes an electrorheological fluid.

37. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material includes an electroactive polymer.

38. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material includes a magnetorheological fluid.

39. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material includes a non-Newtonian fluid.

40. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material includes an auxetic material.

41. The protective garment system of claim 40, wherein the auxetic material includes auxetic fibers.

42. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy-responsive material is substantially solid.

43. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy source includes at least one electrical energy source.

44. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy source includes at least one magnetic field source.

45. The protective garment system of claim 44, wherein the at least one magnetic field source includes at least one of a permanent magnet or an electromagnet.

46. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one energy source includes at least one mechanical actuator.

47. (canceled)

48. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one controller is configured to direct the at least one energy source to controllably deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy-responsive material.

49. The protective garment system of claim 48, wherein the at least one controller is configured to direct the at least one energy source responsive to sensing by the one or more sensors.

50. The protective garment system of claim 48, wherein the at least one controller is configured to control a magnitude of the at least one stimulus energy.

51. The protective garment system of claim 50, wherein the at least one controller is configured to control the magnitude of the at least one stimulus energy responsive to one or more characteristics sensed by the one or more sensors.

52. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the one or more sensors includes at least one of one or more accelerometers, one or more proximity sensors, one or more pressure sensors, one or more optical sensors, one or more acoustical sensors, or one or more force sensors.

53. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the one or more sensors are configured to sense at least one of a force of impact, a location of impact relative to the supportive member, a direction of impact, movement of the supportive member, movement of a potential impact source, movement of an actual impact source, or an activity of the individual wearing the supportive member.

54. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the one or more sensors are configured to sense at least one of an acceleration of a portion of the individual or the supportive member worn by the individual, a deceleration of a portion of the individual or the supportive member worn by the individual, a force applied to a portion of the individual or the supportive member worn by the individual, or a predicted force applied to at least one of the individual wearing the supportive member or the protective member.

55. (canceled)

56. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein, the one or more sensors are associated with at least one specific region of the system; and the at least one controller is configured to direct the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy-responsive material of the at least one specific region responsive to the one or more sensors sensing the potential impact or the actual impact.

57. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one controller includes a plurality of controllers each of which is operably coupled to at least one of the one or more sensors.

58. The protective garment system of claim 57, wherein each of the plurality of controllers is associated with a specific region of the supportive member, and each of the plurality of controllers is configured to direct the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy responsive material of the at least one specific region of the supportive member responsive to the one or more sensors sensing the potential impact or the actual impact against the at least one specific region of the supportive member.

59. (canceled)

60. (canceled)

61. (canceled)

62. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one controller includes an interface configured to communicate with one or more of a user, a computing device, a tablet, a mobile computing device, or a remote control.

63. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one controller is configured to determine at least one of a likelihood of impact, a predicted location of impact, or an estimated force of impact against the supportive member at least partially based on the sensed potential impact.

64. The system of claim 1, wherein the at least one controller is configured to determine whether the potential impact or the actual impact meets or exceeds an impact threshold level, wherein the at least one controller directs the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one active layer when the potential impact or the actual impact meets or exceeds the impact threshold level.

65. (canceled)

66. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein the at least one controller is configured to determine a likelihood of injury to the individual caused by the potential impact or the actual impact against the supportive member at least partially based on sensing by the one or more sensors.

67. (canceled)

68. The protective garment system of claim 1, wherein at least one of the at least one energy source, the one or more sensors, or the at least one controller is at least partially disposed in, attached to, or incorporated with the supportive member.

69. (canceled)

70. (canceled)

71. A protective garment system for protecting one or more body parts of at least one individual, comprising: a plurality of supportive members, each of the plurality of supportive members are configured to contact one or more body regions of at least one individual, each of the plurality of supportive members supporting at least, at least one protective member including, at least one passive layer; and at least one active layer coupled to the at least one passive layer, the at least one active layer including at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy; at least one energy source operably coupled to the at least one active layer and configured to deliver the at least one stimulus energy; one or more sensors configured to sense a potential impact or an actual impact with at least one of the plurality of supportive members; and at least one controller operably coupled to the one or more sensors and the at least one energy source, the at least one controller configured to direct the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy-responsive material.

72. The protective garment system of claim 71, wherein the at least one protective member of at least one of the plurality of supportive members is at least partially formed from a plurality of segments, the plurality of segments includes the at least one passive layer or the at least one active layer.

73-89. (canceled)

90. A method of protecting one or more body parts of an individual, the method comprising: with one or more sensors, sensing a potential impact or an actual impact against a supportive member worn by the individual, the supportive member configured to contact one or more body regions of the individual, the supportive member supporting at least at least one protective member, the protective member including, at least one passive layer; at least one active layer coupled to the at least one passive layer, the at least one active layer including at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy; and at least one energy source operably coupled to the at least one active layer; and with at least one controller, directing the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy-responsive material of the at least one active layer to change the at least one physical property of the at least one energy-responsive material.

91-110. (canceled)
Description



[0001] If an Application Data Sheet (ADS) has been filed on the filing date of this application, it is incorporated by reference herein. Any applications claimed on the ADS for priority under 35 U.S.C. .sctn..sctn.119, 218, 121, or 365(c), and any and all parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc. applications of such applications, are also incorporated by reference, including any priority claims made in those applications and any material incorporated by reference, to the extent such subject matter is not inconsistent herewith.

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0002] The present application claims the benefit of the earliest available effective filing date(s) from the following listed application(s) (the "Priority Applications"), if any, listed below (e.g., claims earliest available priority dates for other than provisional patent applications or claims benefits under 35 USC .sctn.119(e) for provisional patent applications, for any and all parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc. applications of the Priority Application(s)).

PRIORITY APPLICATIONS

[0003] None.

[0004] If the listings of applications provided above are inconsistent with the listings provided via an ADS, it is the intent of the Applicant to claim priority to each application that appears in the Domestic Benefit/National Stage Information section of the ADS and to each application that appears in the Priority Applications section of this application.

[0005] All subject matter of the Priority Applications and of any and all applications related to the Priority Applications by priority claims (directly or indirectly), including any priority claims made and subject matter incorporated by reference therein as of the filing date of the instant application, is incorporated herein by reference to the extent such subject matter is not inconsistent herewith.

BACKGROUND

[0006] Impact injuries are sustained from impacts of objects against an individual and impact of the individual against objects. Impact injuries include blunt force traumas, punctures, concussion, broken bones, damaged joints, and other medical conditions. Equipment for prevention of impact injuries has existed for many centuries in many forms, including medieval armor and ancient Egyptian helmets.

[0007] Prevention of impact injuries has led to the development of modern safety equipment, such as hardhats, batting helmets, football pads, knee-braces, and body armor such as bullet proof vests, etc. Some safety equipment useful for preventing impact injuries is bulky, cumbersome, heavy, and can limit movement. For example, football pads can limit movement and tend to be bulky. Knee or other joint braces can unduly limit range of motion. Body armor tends to be bulky, heavy, and may limit range of motion in some cases.

SUMMARY

[0008] Embodiments disclosed herein relate to a system for automatically protecting an individual from injuries using one or more sensors and one or more protective members, and methods of using the same. In an embodiment, a protective garment system for protecting an individual is disclosed. The protective garment system includes a supportive member that is configured to contact one or more body regions of the individual. The protective garment system also includes at least one protective member supported by the supportive member. The protective member includes at least one passive layer and at least one active layer coupled to the at least one passive layer. The at least one active layer can include at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy. The protective garment system can also include at least one energy source operably coupled to the at least one active layer and configured to deliver the at least one stimulus energy. The protective garment system further includes one or more sensors configured to sense at least one of an actual impact or a potential impact of the individual. The protective garment system includes at least one controller operably can be coupled to the one or more sensors and the at least one energy source.

[0009] In an embodiment, a protective garment system is disclosed for protecting one or more body parts of at least one individual. The protective garment system includes a plurality of supportive members. Each of the plurality of supportive members is configured to contact one or more body regions of the at least one individual. Each of the plurality of supportive members supports at least one protective member. The at least one protective member includes at least one passive layer and at least one active layer coupled to the at least one passive layer. The active layer includes at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy. Each of the plurality of supportive members also supports at least one energy source operably coupled to the at least one active layer and configured to deliver the at least one stimulus energy. The protective garment system includes one or more sensors configured to sense at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact with at least one of the plurality of supportive members. The protective garment system includes at least one controller that can be operably coupled to the one or more sensors and the at least one energy source. The at least one controller is configured to direct the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy-responsive material.

[0010] In an embodiment, a method of protecting one or more body parts of an individual is disclosed. The method includes, with one or more sensors, sensing at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact against a supportive member worn by the individual. The supportive member is configured to contact one or more body regions of the individual. The supportive member can support at least one protective member. The at least one protective member includes at least one passive layer and at least one active layer coupled to the at least one passive layer. The at least one active layer includes at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy. The supportive member also supports at least one energy source operably coupled to the at least one active layer. The method also includes, with a controller, directing the at least one energy source to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the at least one energy-responsive material of the at least one active layer to change the at least one physical property of the at least one energy-responsive material.

[0011] Features from any of the disclosed embodiments can be used in combination with one another, without limitation. In addition, other features and advantages of the present disclosure will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art through consideration of the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings.

[0012] The foregoing summary is illustrative only and is not intended to be in any way limiting. In addition to the illustrative aspects, embodiments, and features described above, further aspects, embodiments, and features will become apparent by reference to the drawings and the following detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0013] FIG. 1 is a schematic of a system for protecting an individual from injuries, according to an embodiment.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a schematic view of a portion of a protective member incorporated in a system for protecting an individual from injuries, according to an embodiment.

[0015] FIG. 3A is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member, while an electroactive polymer thereof is in a first state, according to an embodiment.

[0016] FIGS. 3B-3D are cross-sectional views of the protective member shown in FIG. 3A, while an electroactive polymer thereof is in a second state, according to different embodiments.

[0017] FIG. 4 is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member, according to an embodiment.

[0018] FIG. 5 is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member, according to an embodiment.

[0019] FIG. 6A is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member, according to an embodiment.

[0020] FIG. 6B is a cross-sectional view of the energy-responsive material of the protective member shown in FIG. 6A in a second state, according to an embodiment.

[0021] FIG. 6C is a cross-sectional view of the energy-responsive material of the protective member shown in FIG. 6A in a third state, according to an embodiment.

[0022] FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional schematic view of a portion of a protective member that includes three layers, according to an embodiment.

[0023] FIG. 8A is a top view of a protective member that include a plurality of segments, according to an embodiment.

[0024] FIG. 8B is a top view of a protective member that includes a plurality of segments, according to an embodiment.

[0025] FIG. 8C is a side, cross-sectional view of a protective member that includes a plurality of segments, according to an embodiment.

[0026] FIG. 8D is a side, cross-sectional view of a protective member that includes a plurality of segments, according to an embodiment.

[0027] FIGS. 9A-9D are schematics of different supportive members that can include any of the protective members disclosed herein, according to different embodiments.

[0028] FIG. 10A is a schematic illustration of system that includes a plurality of supportive members, according to an embodiment.

[0029] FIG. 10B is a schematic of a system that includes a plurality of supportive members, according to an embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0030] Embodiments disclosed herein relate to systems for automatically protecting an individual (e.g., human or non-human animal) from injuries using one or more sensors and one or more protective members, and methods of using the same. The system can include a supportive member supporting one or more protective members (e.g., the protective members are attached to, disposed in, disposed on, incorporated into, or otherwise supported by the supportive member). The supportive member can include any item that contacts a portion of one or more body regions of the individual, such as a garment or gear. The protective members can include at least one passive layer and at least one active layer. The at least one active layer includes at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy. For example, the system can include at least one energy source that is configured to deliver the stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material. The system can also include one or more sensors configured to sense one or more characteristics, such as at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact of the individual. The system can include at least one controller communicably coupled to the energy source and the sensors.

[0031] In the following detailed description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part hereof. In the drawings, similar symbols typically identify similar components, unless context dictates otherwise. The illustrative embodiments described in the detailed description, drawings, and claims are not meant to be limiting. Other embodiments may be utilized, and other changes may be made, without departing from the spirit or scope of the subject matter presented here.

[0032] FIG. 1 is a schematic of a system 100 for protecting an individual 102 from injuries such as impacts, punctures wounds, concussion, etc., according to an embodiment. The system 100 includes one or more protective members 104, one or more sensors 106, and at least one controller 108. At least one of the one or more protective members 104, one or more sensors 106, or at least one controller 108 can be supported by a supportive member 110. The supportive member 110 can be worn by the individual 102. The one or more protective members 104 are configured to change from a first state to a second state responsive to direction from the at least one controller 108. In the first state, the protective members 104 can be configured to provide relative flexibility or freedom of movement to one or more of a body part of the individual (e.g., leg, abdomen, etc.) or at least a portion of the supportive member 110 adjacent thereto. In the second state, the protective members 104 can be configured to provide relative inflexibility or rigidity to one or more of the body part of the individual 102 or at least a portion of the supportive member 110 adjacent thereto for enhanced protection of the individual 102 from injuries. In an embodiment, the first state may provide less relative flexibility than the second state. The relative inflexibility state may provide one or more of impact resistance, structural support, or force-dampening effects to a body part of the individual 102 or to the supportive member 110.

[0033] The one or more sensors 106 are configured to sense at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact, as described in detail below. The sensed potential impact or actual impact can be relayed from the one or more sensors 106 to the controller 108 as described in detail below. The controller 108 is configured to selectively direct one or more of the protective members to alter from the first state to the second state, vice versa, or some state therebetween, responsive to the sensed impact or potential impact as described in detail below.

[0034] In an embodiment, at least a portion of the protective member 104 or the supportive member 110 is configured to conform or be conformable to one or more body regions of the individual 102. For example, the body region of the individual 102 can include an abdominal region, a spinal region, a back region, a thoracic region, an arm, or another portion of the individual 102.

[0035] FIG. 2 is a schematic view of a portion of a protective member 204 incorporated in a system 200 for protecting an individual from injuries, according to an embodiment. The protective member 204 can be supported by, for example, being at least partially disposed in, attached to, or incorporated with a supportive member (e.g., supportive member 110 of FIG. 1). The protective member 204 can be supported by the supportive member to at least partially protect the individual wearing the supportive member from injuries that can occur during a hazardous event.

[0036] In an embodiment, the supportive member includes an article of clothing, apparel, or gear that supports one or more components of a system (e.g., the system 100 of FIG. 1). For example, the supportive member can be athletic apparel or gear (e.g., football jersey, a rib guard, a hockey girdle, shoulder pads, etc.), and the protective member 204 can be supported by the supportive member to at least partially protect the individual from injuries that can occur during an athletic event. In another example, the supportive member can be apparel or gear that is worn during a potentially hazardous activity. The hazardous activity can be an activity that includes projectiles or other actual or potential impact sources. In particular, the supportive member can be at least a portion of military apparel, policeman's uniform, fireman's uniform, first responder's uniform, construction worker's apparel, paintball apparel, ski apparel, motorcycle safety apparel, tactical gear, or other similar items. In such an example, the protective member 204 can be positioned on the supportive member to protect a portion of the individual that is not protected by the other safety equipment or can be positioned to protect a portion of the individual that is already protected by the other safety equipment. In an embodiment, the supportive member includes supportive gear or appeal. For example, the supportive gear or apparel can include a wrap, a brace, or an athletic supporter. In an embodiment, the supportive member includes a bandage or wound dressing. In an embodiment, the supportive member can include fabric, such as one or more a natural fabric (e.g., cotton, leather, wool, etc.), synthetic fabrics (e.g., nylon, polyester such as neoprene, etc.), or one or more polymers (e.g., a plastic helmet).

[0037] The protective member 204 is formed from two or more layers. For example, the protective member 204 includes at least one passive layer 212 and at least one active layer 214 coupled to the passive layer 212. The active layer 214 includes at least one energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy 215 being delivered thereto. The protective member 204 further includes at least one energy source 216 that is operably coupled to the active layer 214 and is configured to output and deliver the stimulus energy 215 (e.g., controllably deliver a selected magnitude of the stimulus energy) to the energy-responsive material. In an embodiment, the protective member 204 or the supportive member supporting the protective member 204 can include one or more sensors 206. The sensors 206 can be configured to sense at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact against the individual wearing the supportive member. The protective member 204 can also include at least one controller 208 including control electrical circuitry. The controller 208 can be communicably coupled to one or more components of the protective member 204. The control electrical circuitry can be configured to at least partially control at least some of the components to which the controller 208 is communicably coupled.

[0038] The passive layer 212 can include any suitable material. For example, the passive layer 212 can include one or more suitable materials that do not substantially change at least one physical property thereof when the active layer 214 is subjected to the stimulus energy 215 or responsive to receiving or interacting with the stimulus energy 215. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 can include at least one fabric. For example, the fabric can include one or more of wool, cotton, silk, linen, nylon, spandex, rayon, polyester, acrylic, another natural fabric, or another synthetic fabric. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 can be configured to provide some form of protection to an individual. For example, the passive layer 212 can include one or more of a foam, Kevlar, Lexan, a carbon fiber composite material, a tear-resistant material, an indentation-resistant material, an impact-resistant material, or a force-dampening material. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 can be configured to apply the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214 (e.g., the passive layer 212 can include the energy source 216). In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 can include one or more water-resistant or waterproof materials (e.g., water-repelling coating, polyethylene, a water-resistant membrane). In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 can substantially be the same as the supportive member 110.

[0039] In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can be configured to directly contact at least one body region of an individual. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can form an exterior or interior layer of the protective member 204. For example, the passive layer 212 can form both an exterior and interior layer such that the passive layer 212 at least partially or completely surrounds the active layer 214, or vice versa. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can form all or part of athletic apparel or gear. For example, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can define a plurality of perforations, absorb sweat, include one or more logos, numbers, or letters, etc. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can include a material that stretches or is flexible such that the protective member 204 better conforms or is conformable to at least one body region (e.g., at least one surface of the body region) of the individual and does not inhibit movement of the individual. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can naturally conform to at least one body region of a specific individual (e.g., specifically designed or manufactured to be worn by the specific individual). For example, the at least one body region of the specific individual can be scanned to sense a topography using any suitable method (e.g., 3D laser scanning), and the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 is formed (e.g., by 3-dimensional printing) to substantially conform to the at least one body region of the specific individual. In another example, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can be applied to the at least one body region of the specific individual and the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can be treated (e.g., heat treated) to substantially conform to the at least one body region of the specific individual. In an embodiment, the passive layer 212 or the active layer 214 can form at least a portion of or be distinct from the supportive member. In an embodiment, the protective member 204 and supportive member are substantially a single unit.

[0040] The passive layer 212 and the active layer 214 can be coupled together using any suitable method. For example, the protective member 204 can include at least one of an adhesive, stitches, one or more mechanical fasteners such as rivets, screws, or clamps, or another suitable attachment mechanism that couples the passive layer 212 and the active layer 214 together.

[0041] The active layer 214 can include any suitable energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to receiving the stimulus energy 215. In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material can be or include at least one of a solid or a fluid (e.g., liquid, gas, or gel). In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material can include at least one of an electrorheological fluid, a magnetorheological fluid, an electroactive polymer, a non-Newtonian fluid, or an auxetic material. In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material can include a piezoelectric material, a ferrofluid, or another suitable material. In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material can include any suitable material that changes (e.g., increases or decreases) at least one of a stiffness thereof, a volume thereof, a cross-sectional area thereof in at least one direction, a density thereof, a viscosity thereof, a shear modulus thereof, an elastic modulus thereof, a yield stress thereof, a density thereof, etc. responsive to the stimulus energy 215. In an embodiment, the active layer 214 can include a material that exhibits a phase change or shape change (e.g., elastic or inelastic deformation) responsive to the stimulus energy 215.

[0042] In an embodiment, the active layer 214 can at least substantially only include the energy-responsive material. In an embodiment, the active layer 214 can include the energy-responsive material and at least one passive material (e.g., a material that does not change a physical property thereof responsive to the stimulus energy 215). For example, the energy-responsive material can include a liquid and the active layer 214 can include a reservoir at least partially formed from the passive material. In an embodiment, the active layer 214 can include a composite that includes the energy-responsive material and the passive material. In an embodiment, the passive material can form part of the energy source 216 that is at least partially positioned in or on the active layer 214.

[0043] In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material can include a plurality of different energy-responsive materials. For example, the energy-responsive material can include a first energy-responsive material and a second energy-responsive material that is different than the first energy-responsive material. In an embodiment, the first energy-responsive material can change at least one physical property thereof responsive to being subjected to a first stimulus energy, and the second energy-responsive material can change at least one physical property thereof responsive to being subject to a second stimulus energy that is different than the at least one first stimulus energy. In an embodiment, the first and second energy-responsive materials can change at least one physical property thereof responsive to the same stimulus energy.

[0044] In an embodiment, the active layer 214 can be configured to be switchable between at least a first and second state. The active layer 214 can be in the first state when the stimulus energy 215 is not actively delivered to the energy-responsive material. The energy-responsive material can exhibit a first physical property when the active layer 214 is in the first state. The active layer 214 can be in the second state when a first stimulus energy is actively delivered to the energy-responsive material. The at least one energy-responsive material can exhibit a second physical property that is different from the first physical property when the active layer 214 is in the second state. In an embodiment, the active layer 214 can be configured to be switchable between the first state, the second state, and at least one additional active state (e.g., a third state) that is different than the first and second states. The active layer 214 can be in the third state when a second stimulus energy is actively delivered to the energy-responsive material. The second stimulus energy can be different from the first stimulus energy. For example, the second stimulus energy can be a different type of stimulus energy than the first stimulus energy (e.g., the first stimulus energy can be a magnetic field and the second stimulus energy can be an electric field), the at least one second stimulus energy can exhibit a different magnitude that the at least one first stimulus, etc. The at least one energy-responsive material can exhibit a third physical property when the active layer 214 is in the third state.

[0045] The energy source 216 can include any device configured to subject the active layer 214 to the stimulus energy 215. In an embodiment, the energy source 216 can be configured to output at least one of electrical energy, magnetic energy, mechanical energy, thermal energy, electromagnetic energy, or another suitable type of energy. For example, electrical energy can be an electric field generated from one or more electrodes or one or more electrode pairs. For example, the magnetic energy can be a magnetic field generated from one or more electromagnets or one or more permanent magnets. For example, the mechanical energy can be generated from one or more piezoelectric actuators, one or more shape memory alloy actuators, one or more hydraulic actuators, one or more microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), one or more nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), etc.

[0046] In an embodiment, the energy source 216 can be directly coupled to the active layer 214. For example, the energy source 216 can be at least partially positioned in or on the active layer 214. In an embodiment, the energy source 216 can be remote from the active layer 214. For example, the energy source 216 can be at least partially positioned in or on the passive layer 212. In an embodiment, the energy source 216 can be spaced from the protective member 204 (e.g., attached to or otherwise supported by a portion of the supportive member).

[0047] In an embodiment, the energy source 216 can include a plurality of energy sources. For example, the energy source 216 can include a first energy source and a second energy source that is different from the first energy source. The first energy source can be configured to deliver a first stimulus and the second energy source can be configured to deliver a second stimulus source to the energy-responsive material. For example, the energy-responsive material includes a first and second energy-responsive material that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to the first and second stimulus energy, respectively. In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material exhibits a first, second, and third physical property that are each different. The energy-responsive material can exhibit the first physical property when no stimulus energy is delivered thereto, the second physical property when the one first stimulus energy is delivered thereto, and a third physical property when the second stimulus energy is delivered thereto. In an embodiment, the at least one energy source 216 can include a single energy source.

[0048] The protective member 204 or supportive member supporting the protective member 204 can include one or more sensors 206 configured to sense one or more characteristics of at least one of a potential impact source, an actual impact source, an actual impact against the individual, the supportive member, the protective member 204, or the individual. In an embodiment, at least one of the sensors 206 is at least partially positioned in or on the protective member 204. In an embodiment, at least one of the sensors 206 is spaced from the protective member 204 and at least partially positioned in or on the supportive member. In an embodiment, at least one of the sensors 206 is spaced from the protective member 204 and the supportive member. For example, at least one of the sensors 206 can be at least partially positioned in a playing field, a stadium, a device that monitors the supportive member (e.g., the central computing unit 1054 of FIG. 10), another structure, or other remote location.

[0049] In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can be configured to sense one or more characteristics of at least one of a potential impact source or actual impact source. For example, the sensors 206 can sense a radius of curvature, a color, a roughness, size, a hardness, a density, etc. of the potential impact source or actual impact source. The potential impact source or actual impact source can be another individual, another athlete (e.g., a football player), a projectile (e.g., a ball, falling debris), a surface (e.g., a road, a playing surface, a fence), etc. In an example, an optical sensor can sense a radius of curvature to determine if the impact source includes a sharp edge. In an example, an acoustic sensor can sense a hardness of an impact source.

[0050] In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can be configured to sense the actual impact against the protective member 204, the supportive member, or the individual. For example, the sensors 206 can sense the force (e.g., angular force) of the actual impact, area of the protective member 204, supportive member, or individual impacted, acceleration or deceleration of the actual impact source, radius of curvature of the actual impact source, size of the actual impact source, a temporary or permanent indentation into the individual caused by the actual impact, a location of the actual impact relative to the individual, a direction of impact, acceleration or deceleration of the individual, etc. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can be configured to sense the movement of at least a portion of the individual (e.g., the supportive member worn by the individual), the movement of the supportive member, the movement of the potential impact source, or the movement of the actual impact source. The movement of at least a portion of the individual, of the supportive member, of the potential impact source, or of the actual impact source includes at least one of a position, direction of movement, speed, acceleration, deceleration, or direction of acceleration or deceleration of the individual, the supportive member, the potential impact source, or the actual impact source. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can be configured to sense one or more characteristics of the protective member 204, the supportive member, or the individual. For example, the sensors 206 can be configured to sense the spatial location, heartrate, perspiration, oxygen level, etc. of the individual that can be indicative of a potential impact or an actual impact against the individual. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 are configured to sense a time of day, an activity, a location, etc.

[0051] In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include one or more sensors configured to sense the movement of the individual, the potential impact source, or the actual impact source. For example, the sensors 206 can include one or more of an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, an optical sensor, a topography sensor, a pressure sensor, a thermal sensor, a force sensor, an acoustic sensor, among others. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include one or more proximity sensors configured to sense one or more characteristics of the individual, the potential impact source, or the actual impact source. The one or more proximity sensors can include an infrared sensor, sonar, a laser rangefinder, a micro-impulse radar, an inductive sensor, a capacitive sensor, a photoelectric sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, etc. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include one or more optical sensors configured to sense one or more characteristics of the individual, the potential impact source, or the actual impact source. The one or more optical sensors can include an active-pixel sensor, light-emitting diodes that are reversed biased, a transducer, etc. For example, the optical sensors can be configured to sense a geometry of the potential or actual impact source. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include one or more topography sensors configured to sense a radius of curvature of the potential impact source of the actual impact source. In an embodiment, the one or more sensors can include a thermal sensor configured to sense one or more characteristics of the individual, the potential impact source, or the actual impact source. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include a force sensor configured to sense one or more characteristics of the actual impact. The force sensor can include a pressure sensor, a transducer, a displacement sensor, etc. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include one or more acoustic sensors configured to sense one or more characteristics of the individual, the potential impact source, or the actual impact source. For example, the acoustic sensors can be configured to sense a geometry, stiffness, or density of the potential or actual impact source. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include an inertia sensor (e.g., MEMS inertia sensor) configured to sense movement of the individual. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include a heart rate monitor configured to sense the heart rate of the individual. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include a moisture sensor configured to sense sweat, blood, other body fluids, or other fluids.

[0052] The sensors 206 can be configured to sense one or more of direction of travel of at least a portion of the individual, velocity of at least a portion of the individual, acceleration of the individual, deceleration of at least a portion of the individual, a pressure applied to a portion of the individual or sensors on the supportive member worn by the individual by an object, a radius of curvature of the object contacting the protective garment system, a predicted force (e.g., tension, stress, strain, etc.) on a body part of the individual, or a direction of likely impact to at least one body part of the individual.

[0053] In an embodiment, at least one of the sensors 206 can be configured to sense one or more characteristics of a specific portion of the protective member 204 (e.g., segments 844a-d of FIGS. 8A-8D), the supportive member, the individual, or a location external therefrom. For example, one of the sensors 206 can be configured to sense a force of an actual impact against a specific portion of the supportive member (e.g., protective member 204). In such an example, the sensors can include a first sensor configured to sense a force against a first selected portion of the supportive member and a second sensor configured to sense a force against a second selected portion of the supportive member distinct from the first selected portion. In an embodiment, at least one of the sensors 206 can be configured to sense one or more characteristics of the entire protective member 204, the entire supportive member, the entire individual, or a relative large location external therefrom.

[0054] In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can be communicably coupled to one or more components of the protective member, the supportive member, or a device distinct from the protective member and the supportive member (e.g., the central computing unit 1054 of FIG. 10B). As such, the sensors 206 can transmit the sensed information signals 217 responsive to sensing the characteristics. For example, the sensed information signals 217 can include data encoded therein including the sensed characteristics. In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can sense the characteristics or transmit the sensed information signals 217 responsive to direction from the controller 208.

[0055] In an embodiment, the sensors 206 can include a plurality of sensors. For example, the plurality of sensors can include at least a first sensor and a second sensor. In an embodiment, the first and second sensors can be configured to sense the same characteristic. In an embodiment, the first sensor can sense a first characteristic and the second sensor can be configured to sense a second characteristic that is different than the first characteristic. In an embodiment, the first sensor can be coupled to a first location, and the second sensor can be coupled to a second location that is different than the first location. In an embodiment, at least some of the plurality of sensors 206 can be attached together or positioned adjacent to each other to form a sensor array.

[0056] The controller 208 can include control electrical circuitry configured to at least partially control the operation of one or more components of the system 200. For example, the controller 208 can include at least one memory storage medium 218 and at least one processor 219 including processing electrical circuitry operably coupled to the at least one memory storage medium 218. The controller can include an interface 221 (e.g., a transceiver). The controller 208 can be configured to determine if the energy source 216 should deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214, based at least partially on the one or more sensors 206 sensing at least one of a potential impact or an actual impact of the individual. The controller 208 can be operably coupled (e.g., wirelessly or wiredly communicably coupled) to the energy source 216 and at least some of the sensors 206. The at least one controller 208 can at least partially control the energy source 216 to emit the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer. The controller 208 can at least partially direct the energy source 216 responsive to the sensed potential or actual impact. For example, the controller 208 can direct the energy source 216 to controllably deliver the stimulus energy 215 (e.g., deliver a selected magnitude or intensity of the stimulus energy 215) to the active layer 214 responsive to the potential or actual impact. For instance, the controller 208 can direct the energy source 216 to controllably deliver a relatively low magnitude of the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214 responsive to a relatively weak potential or actual impact such that the active layer is not fully activated. In an embodiment, the controller 208 can be configured to direct the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to a region of the active layer 214 that is at or adjacent to a sensed actual impact or potential impact location. In an embodiment, the controller 208 can direct the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the energy-responsive material at one or more selected magnitudes. In an embodiment, the controller 208 can direct the sensors 206 to sense one or more characteristics.

[0057] In an embodiment, the controller 208 can be at least partially positioned in or on the protective member 204. In an embodiment, the controller 208 can be distinct from the protective member 204 and at least partially positioned in or on the supportive member. In an embodiment, the controller 208 can be spaced from the protective member 204 and the supportive member.

[0058] In an embodiment, the at least one controller 208 can include a plurality of controllers, each operably coupled to at least one of the sensors 206. For example, each of the plurality of controllers can be operably coupled to at least one of the sensors 206, (e.g., sensors of a distinct region). In another example, each of the plurality of controllers can be configured to determine if a distinct region of the protective member 204 is experiencing at least one of an actual impact or potential impact. For instance, each of the plurality of controllers can be associated with the distinct region of the protective member 204. Each of the plurality of controllers can be configured to direct the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the distinct region of the protective member 204. For example, the energy source 216 can include a plurality of energy sources, and each of the plurality of energy sources can be configured to deliver a stimulus energy 215 to a distinct region of the protective member 204. In an embodiment, each of the plurality of controllers can be configured to communicate with other controllers of the plurality of controllers.

[0059] In an embodiment, the plurality of controllers can include at least one primary controller and at least one secondary controller. The primary controller can be configured to control the operation of the secondary controller. For example, the supportive member 210 can include a plurality of segments (e.g., segments 844a, 844b, 844c, or 844d of FIGS. 8A-8D). The at least one secondary controller can include a plurality of secondary controllers and at least some of the plurality of segments can include at least one of the plurality of secondary controllers disposed therein or thereon. The primary controller can relay instructions to one or more of the secondary controllers and the secondary controllers can at least partially control the operation of the segments responsive to receiving the instructions from the primary controller. In another example, the primary controller can be remote from the supportive member (e.g., CCU 1054 of FIG. 10B).

[0060] The memory storage medium 218 can be physically disposed in the controller 208 or separate from and communicably coupled to the controller 208. The at least one memory storage medium 218 can include any non-transitory memory storage medium, such as a hard-disk drive, a solid state memory device, a flash drive, or the like. The at least one memory storage medium 218 can include one or more of program instructions for the at least one processor 219, data from the one or more sensors 206 (e.g., present or previous sensed motion characteristics such as potential impacts, actual impacts, or forces associated therewith), threshold values for one or more forces or characteristics sensed by the one or more sensors 206, a history of the protective member 204 (e.g., deployment or stimulation history of each protective member 204, current status of the protective garment system, etc.), a history of potential or actual impacts against the protective member (e.g., potential or actual impacts against the protective member 204, potential or actual impacts against a region of the protective member 204, or potential or actual impacts against one or more segments of the protective member 204), look-up tables corresponding to any of the proceeding, one or more databases, or system diagnostic statuses (e.g., current and past statuses, or readiness states of any components of the system).

[0061] The at least one processor 219 can be operably coupled to the at least one memory storage medium 218 via the connection 222. The at least one connection 222 can be a wireless connection or a hardwired connection. The at least one processor 219 is configured to access and read the memory storage medium 218. The at least one processor 219 is configured to receive sensor data indicating a potential or actual impact. The at least one processor is configured to direct the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214.

[0062] The at least one processor 219 is configured to determine if the energy source 216 should deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214, at least partially based on one or more characteristics sensed by the one or more sensors 206. For example, the one or more sensors 206 can sense one or more objects within a specific proximity of the system 200, protective member 204, or the individual, and the processor 219 can determine if the proximity is below a threshold value for safety. The threshold value can include an impact threshold level (e.g., a selected likelihood that a potential impact will impact the supportive member, the potential or actual impact will impact the supportive member at or above a selected force or pressure) or an injury threshold level (e.g., a selected likelihood that the potential or actual impact will cause injury, a selected likelihood that the potential or actual impact will cause a selected injury, etc.). In an embodiment, the one or more sensors 206 can sense a velocity of the one or more objects (e.g., the ground or a person) relative to the individual, the protective member 204, or one or more sensors 206, and determine if the velocity is indicative of a potential impact therewith. In an embodiment, the one or more sensors 206 can be configured to sense a force or pressure applied thereto, and, responsive to the sensed force, the processor 219 can be configured to determine if an actual or potential impact is taking place. For example, one or more sensors 206 can be configured to sense a pressure applied thereto, and the processor can determine if the pressure is indicative of a force capable of injuring an individual, such as by comparing the measured force to a threshold force stored in the memory. The threshold levels (e.g., the impact threshold levels) can be set for any condition, such as the amount of pressure applied or potentially applied thereto, size of object impacting or potentially impacting the supportive member system, velocity of object impacting or potentially impacting the supportive member system, orientation of one or more portions of the supportive members system such as twisting, falling, or bending, an amount of time spent on an activity, a number of previous impacts against the supportive member system, or combinations thereof. The threshold value can be set by the individual, a medical professional, a manufacturer, the controller, or other persons. In an embodiment, the threshold level can include a deployment threshold level that indicates when the controller 208 directs the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214 (e.g., when the impact will exceed the impact threshold level). In an embodiment, the threshold level can include an injury threshold level that indicates when an actual impact source likely injured the individual.

[0063] The processor 219 can compare the sensed characteristics, such as velocity, pressure, proximity, etc., to one or more threshold values to determine that an actual or potential impact is taking place. Responsive to a sensed characteristic (e.g., force, pressure, velocity, proximity, etc.) being beyond the corresponding threshold value, the processor 219 can be configured to direct the energy source 216 to deliver (or stop delivering) the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214 to change the active layer from a first state to a second state, or vice versa. For example, the processor 219 directs the energy source 216 to cease delivering or deliver less of the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer when the processor 219 determines that the actual or potential impact is relatively small (e.g., the actual or potential impact exhibits a relatively low force, pressure, etc.) such that the actual or potential impact is below an impact threshold. In another example, the processor 219 directs the energy source 216 to commence delivering or deliver more of the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer when the processor 219 determines that the actual or potential impact is relatively large (e.g., the actual or potential impact exhibits a relatively large force, pressure, etc.) such that the actual or potential impact is above an impact threshold. In an embodiment, the at least one processor 219 can be configured to determine if a potential impact or actual impact is taking place based on a combination of any of the sensed characteristics disclosed herein.

[0064] The processor 219 can be configured to determine if a threshold level has been met or exceeded by a differential of one or more sensed characteristics sensed at adjacent sensors of the one or more sensors 206. For example, only a single sensor 206 in a plurality of sensors 206 indicating a specific amount of pressure in a specific region of a protective member 204 can indicate a puncture wound is likely as compared to the same pressure spread out over a larger surface area. Responsive thereto, the processor 219 can direct the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214 to cause an increase in at least one of the viscosity, hardness, yield strength, ultimate tensile strength, Young's modulus, shear modulus, etc. of the active layer 214 to prevent puncture or blunt force injury. In an embodiment, a threshold level can include a level of pressure applied over a surface area whereby the threshold level corresponds to a force indicative of a possible puncture that would result from a relatively sharp object. In an embodiment, from sensor data from the plurality of sensors 206, the processor 219 can be configured to determine a level of acceleration or deceleration indicative of a force capable of breaking bone of the individual, or a motion and directions thereof (e.g., twisting or bending) indicative of a force capable of damaging a body part of the individual. Suitable threshold levels can be stored in the memory storage medium 218.

[0065] The processor 219 can be configured to set or adjust one or more threshold levels (e.g., an impact threshold level) based at least partially on one or more of a velocity of at least one body part of the individual, one or more physiological attributes of the individual (e.g., weight, height, age, health, etc.), a location of the individual within an area (e.g., if the individual is within a playing field), a location of the individual with respect to one or more objects, a time of day, an elapsed time (e.g., the time the individual has been playing or if the individual has been playing for a pre-determined amount of time), a history of impacts to at least a portion of the supportive member or protective member 204 (e.g., a portion housing the sensor sensing current conditions), a history of deployment of the protective member (e.g., to the same portion housing the sensor sensing current conditions), a velocity of the individual (e.g., how fast is a football player running), or an activity level of the individual. That is, the processor 219 can be configured to adjust the threshold levels to compensate for velocity of a person, size of a person wearing the protective garment system, proximity of the individual to adjacent objects, or any other criteria. For example, the processor 219 can decrease the threshold level when the individual has been playing for a relatively long time or when the individual has been subjected to impacts (e.g., selected number of impacts).

[0066] In an embodiment, the processor 219 can be configured to search a history of the system 200 to determine when or where the energy source 216 delivered the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214. For example, the processor 219 can note a region where multiple impacts have taken place (as determined from multiple deliveries of the energy source) and direct the energy source 216 to deliver the stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214 (e.g., a distinct region of the active layer 214) to provide added protection from repetitive impacts to the individual in that region.

[0067] As discussed above, the controller 208 can include the interface 221. The interface 221 can be configured to communicate with an entity. The entity can include one or more of the individual wearing the supportive member, a user (e.g. medical personnel, physical trainers, coaches, commanding officers, etc.), a computer, a tablet, a mobile computing device (e.g., smart phone), a remote control, etc. The interface 221 can include a screen, an input device, or relay (e.g., transceiver). For example, the interface 221 can relay sensed information signals 217 from the sensors 206 to the processor 219 or memory storage medium 218, and can relay control signals 224 to the energy source 216. In an embodiment, the sensed information signals 217 and control signals 224 can be relayed directly between the processor 219 and sensors 206, the energy source 216, or another component of the system 200. Such sensed information signals 217 or the control signals 224 can be transmitted and received via a wireless connection (e.g., Wi-Fi, infrared, Bluetooth, etc.) or a hardwired connection.

[0068] In an embodiment, the interface 221 can include a user interface 225 configured to inform a user or the individual information relating to the system. The user interface 225 can include one or more output devices such as a screen, audio (e.g., chimes), visual (e.g., LED lights) or haptic (e.g., vibration mechanism) indicator and one or more input devices (such as a keyboard, buttons, levers, switches, or dials). The user interface 225 can include a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a tablet computer, a mobile computing device (e.g., smart phone) (e.g., smart phone), a watch, or a remote control. The user interface 225 can be configured to output information to the user and accept input from the user. For example, the user interface 225 can be configured to output or communicate to a user (e.g., individual wearer, medical professional, coach etc.) one or more of previous impacts against the individual, a deployment history of the plurality of inflatable members, sensed motion characteristics, a readiness status of one or more portions of the protective garment system, program instructions, or threshold levels of force applied to the individual. The interface 221 and user interface 225 can be configured to receive one or more of input, instructions, or programming from one or more of the individual, the user, a mobile computing device (e.g., smart phone), a tablet, or a computer device.

[0069] In an embodiment, the controller 208 can receive one or more inputs from the user interface 225 that the controller 208 can correlate to an actual or potential impact against the supportive member, the protective member 204, or the individual. For example, the user interface 225 can be operably coupled to or integrated with control electrical circuitry of the controller 208 and can receive one or more inputs directly from the individual wearing the supportive member or from other individuals (e.g., observers, such as coaches, trainers, medical staff, etc.). In an embodiment, the controller 208 can correlate the one or more inputs into a potential or actual impact, and responsive to which the controller 208 can generate one or more signals that can be sent to the energy source 216 to deliver stimulus energy 215 to the active layer 214.

[0070] The input can be sent via any suitable input device (e.g., the user interface 225 can include or be connected to one or more of a user, a computing device, a tablet, a mobile computing device (e.g., a smart phone), or a remote control). For example, a personal electronic device (e.g., personal electronic device of the individual) can be operably coupled at the user interface 225 and can send one or more signals or inputs to the controller 208. Additionally or alternatively, one or more buttons, a keyboard, or any other suitable device can be operably coupled to the controller 208 and can send one or more signals thereto.

[0071] The protective member 204 can include at least one power source 226 configured to supply electrical power to one or more components of the protective member 204 or the protective garment system. For example, the power source 226 can be operably coupled to at least one of the sensors 206, the controller 208, the energy source 216, another component of the protective member 204, or another component of the system 200. For example, the power source 226 can be disposed in the protective member 204, the controller 208, or another component of the system 200.

[0072] In an embodiment, the power source 226 can include a device configured to store power (e.g., electrical power) therein. For example, the power source 226 can include at least one battery (e.g., microbattery) or at least one capacitor. In an embodiment, the power source 226 can include a device that can generate electrical power. For example, the power source 226 can include a fuel cell, an energy harvester, or a transducer. The energy harvester can include any device configured to generate electricity from the environment thereabout, such as solar cells, thermoelectric generators, or piezoelectric generators. In an embodiment, the power source 226 can include a device that is rechargeable. In an embodiment, the power source 226 is replaceable. In an embodiment, the power source 226 is not replaceable or is not rechargeable.

[0073] In an embodiment, the power source 226 is at least partially positioned in or on the protective member 204. In an embodiment, the power source 226 is distinct from the protective member 204 and is at least partially positioned in or on the supportive member

[0074] In an embodiment, the at least one power source 226 includes a plurality of power sources 226, such as a first power source and a second power source. In an embodiment, the first and second power sources can be substantially the same. In an embodiment, the first and second power sources can be different. For example, the first power source can include a device configured to store energy therein and the second power source can include a device that can generate electricity. In such an example, the second power source can be coupled to the first power source such that the second power source charges the first power source. In an embodiment, the first power source is coupled to a first component (e.g., a first segment) of the protective member 204 and the second power source is coupled to a second component (e.g., a second segment) of the protective member 204 that is different than the first component.

[0075] FIG. 3A is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member 304, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 304 and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective member 204 (FIG. 2) and its respective materials, components, or elements. For example, the protective member 304 can be a cross-sectional view of the protective member 204. The protective member 304 or its materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0076] The protective member 304 includes at least one passive layer 312 and at least one active layer 314 coupled to the passive layer 312. The active layer 314 can include an energy-responsive material 332 that changes at least one physical property thereof responsive to at least one electrical stimulus energy. The protective member 304 also includes the at least one energy source 316. The energy source 316 includes at least one electrical energy source 327 configured to deliver the electrical stimulus energy (e.g., electric field) to the energy-responsive material 332. For example, the electrical energy source 327 can include a single electrode, a plurality of electrodes, or one or more pairs of electrodes (e.g., a single pair of electrodes or a plurality of pairs of electrodes) operably coupled to a voltage supply. In the illustrated embodiment, the electrical energy source 327 includes a first electrode 328 and a second electrode 330.

[0077] In an embodiment, at least a portion of the energy source 316 is at least partially positioned in or on the passive or active layer 312, 314. For example, the electrical energy source 327 partially forms the passive or active layer 312, 314. In an embodiment, at least a portion of the electrical energy source 327 is distinct from the passive and active layers 312, 314. For example, at least a portion of the electrical energy source 327 can be positioned between the passive and active layers 312, 314, positioned adjacent to (e.g., attached to) a surface of the passive layer 312 spaced from the active layer 314, positioned adjacent to (e.g., attached to) a surface of the active layer 314 spaced from the passive layer 312, spaced from the passive and active layers 312, 314 (e.g., attached to a supportive member that includes the protective member 304), etc.

[0078] In an embodiment, the active layer 314 can include one or more at least substantially fluid tight regions 331 configured to store the energy-responsive material. For example, the energy-responsive material 332 can include a fluid. In an embodiment, the active layer 314 can include at least one wall that at least partially defines the at least substantially fluid tight region 331. The at least one wall can be at least partially formed from the electrical energy source 327 (e.g., the first and second electrodes 328, 330) or a separate container. In an embodiment, the at least substantially fluid tight region 331 can include a bundle of fibers (e.g., woven fabric) that are or are not at least partially enclosed by at least one wall. The bundle of fibers can be configured to maintain the energy-responsive material 332 therein via capillary forces. In an embodiment, the at least substantially fluid tight region 331 can exhibit a thickness t that is less than 3 mm, less than 1 mm, less than 0.5, or less than 0.1 mm to reduce the weight of the protective member 304. The energy-responsive material 332 can at least partially fill (e.g., completely fill) the at least substantially fluid tight region 331.

[0079] In an embodiment, the energy-responsive material 332 includes at least one electrorheological fluid. The electrorheological fluid can include any suitable electrorheological fluid. For example, the electrorheological fluid can include at least a liquid phase and a solid phase. In an embodiment, the liquid and solid phases can exhibit substantially similar densities to prevent the solid phase from precipitating out of the liquid phase. In an embodiment, the solid phase includes nanoparticles to prevent the solid phase from precipitating out of the liquid phase. In an embodiment, the solid phase includes microparticles. In an embodiment, the electrorheological fluid includes a surfactant or other chemical that prevents the solid phase from precipitating out of the liquid phase. In an embodiment, the liquid phase is an oil, such as silicone oil. In an embodiment, the solid phase includes dielectric particles. In an embodiment, the solid phase includes a conductor coated in an insulator.

[0080] In operation, the energy source 316 can switch the electrorheological fluid between at least a first state and a second state. In the first state (e.g., inactive state), the electrorheological fluid exhibits a first physical property. The electrorheological fluid can exhibit the first physical property when the electrical energy source 327 does not apply the electrical stimulus energy to the electrorheological fluid. As such, the first physical property can be the natural viscosity, shear modulus, elastic modulus, yield stress, etc. of the electrorheological fluid because the solid phase is randomly dispersed in the liquid phase.

[0081] In the second state (e.g., active state), the electrorheological fluid exhibits a second physical property. The electrorheological fluid may exhibit the second physical property when the electrical energy source 327 applies at least one electrical stimulus energy to the electrorheological fluid. The electrical stimulus energy can include an electric field. Not to be bound by theory, the electrical stimulus energy can cause the solid phase to align therewith. As such, the second physical property can be the increased viscosity, increased shear modulus, increased elastic modulus, increased yield stress, etc. of the electrorheological fluid. As such, the second physical property of the electrorheological fluid can cause the electrorheological fluid to better absorb energy from an impact against the protective member 304 (e.g., increase the force dampening thereof); increase the impact-, indentation-, and tear-resistance thereof; etc. In an embodiment, increasing the magnitude of the electrical stimulus energy delivered to the electrorheological fluid can further increase or decrease the change in the physical property of the electrorheological fluid (e.g., further increase the viscosity thereof). The electrorheological fluid can switch between the second state to the first state by ceasing to deliver the at least one stimulus energy to the electrorheological fluid.

[0082] In an embodiment, the at least one energy-responsive material 332 can include at least one electroactive polymer. The electroactive polymer can include any suitable electroactive polymer. For example, the electroactive polymer can include an electric electroactive polymer, an ionic electroactive polymer, a non-ionic electroactive polymer (e.g., a polyvinyl alcohol based polymer), carbon nanotubes, or a conductive polymer. An electric electroactive polymer can include ferroelectric polymers (e.g., poly(vinylidene fluoride), dielectric electroactive polymers, electrostrictive graft elastomers, electro-viscoeleastic elastomers, electrostrictive paper, or liquid crystal elastomer materials. An ionic electroactive polymer includes ionic polymer gels or ionomeric polymer-metal composites (e.g., Nation.RTM. (perfluorosulphonate manufactured by Du Pont), Flemion.RTM. (perfluorocaboxylate manufactured by Asahi Glass). Conductive polymers include polypyrrole, poly(p-phenylene vinylene), polyaniline, polythiophenes, polyaniline, poly(3,4-ethylenedixythiophene), or poly(3,4-ethylenedioxypyrrole.

[0083] In operation, the electrical energy source 327 can switch the electroactive polymer between at least a first state and a second state in substantially the same manner as the electrorheological fluid. For example, in the first state, the electroactive polymer exhibits a first physical property when the electrical energy source 327 does not apply the electrical stimulus energy to the electroactive polymer. As such, the first physical property can be the natural volume, cross-sectional area, density, porosity, shape, etc. of the electroactive polymer. FIG. 3A illustrates the electroactive polymer in the first state.

[0084] In the second state (e.g., active phase), the electroactive polymer exhibits a second physical property when the electrical energy source 327 applies the electrical stimulus energy to the electroactive polymer. FIGS. 3B-3D are cross-sectional views of the protective member 304 shown in FIG. 3A while the electroactive polymer thereof is in the second state.

[0085] Referring to FIG. 3B, in an embodiment, the electroactive polymer can controllably increase its volume or cross-sectional area responsive to the electrical stimulus energy is delivered thereto. The electroactive polymer can also controllably decrease the density or change the shape thereof. In such an embodiment, the electroactive polymer can be a polymer gel. The second physical property can cause the electroactive polymer to exhibit improved force dampening (e.g., decrease the deceleration of the impact force thereby decreasing the force applied to an individual), better conform to at least one body region of the individual thereby causing the force to be distributed against a larger surface area of the individual, etc.

[0086] Referring to FIG. 3C, in an embodiment, the electroactive polymer can controllably decrease its volume or cross-sectional area responsive to the electrical stimulus energy is delivered thereto. The electroactive polymer can also controllably increase the density or change the shape thereof. In such an embodiment, the electroactive polymer can be a dielectric electroactive polymer. The second physical property of the electroactive polymer can cause the electroactive polymer to increase the impact, indentation, and tear resistance thereof, etc.

[0087] Referring to FIG. 3D, in an embodiment, the electroactive polymer can controllably change the shape thereof (e.g., elastically or inelastically deform), responsive to the electrical stimulus energy is delivered thereto. In such an embodiment, the electroactive polymer can be an ionic polymer-metal composite. The second physical property can cause the electroactive polymer to exhibit one or more improved force dampening, to better conform to at least one body region of the individual and thereby cause the force to be distributed against a larger surface area of the individual, increase the impact-resistance thereof, increase the indentation-resistance thereof, or increase the tear-resistance thereof, etc.

[0088] In an embodiment, increasing the magnitude of the electrical stimulus energy delivered to the electroactive polymer can further increase or decrease the change in the physical property of the electroactive polymer. For example, referring to FIG. 3B, increasing the electrical stimulus energy delivered to the electroactive polymer can cause the electroactive polymer to further increase the volume, thereof. For example, referring to FIG. 3C, increasing the electrical stimulus energy delivered to the electroactive polymer can cause the electroactive polymer to further decrease the volume of the electroactive polymer, etc. For example, referring to FIG. 3D, increasing the electrical stimulus energy delivered to the electroactive polymer can cause the electroactive polymer to further change the shape of the electroactive polymer, etc.

[0089] FIG. 4 is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member 404, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 404 and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective member 204, 304 (FIGS. 2-3D) and their respective materials, components, or elements. For example, the protective member 404 can be a cross-sectional view of the protective member 204. The protective member 404 or its materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0090] The protective member 404 includes at least one passive layer 412 and at least one active layer 414 coupled to the passive layer 412. The active layer 414 can include at least one energy-responsive material 432 that changes at least one property thereof responsive to at least one magnetic stimulus energy (e.g., magnetic field), such as a magnetorheological fluid. The protective member 404 can also include the at least one energy source 416. The at least one energy source 416 includes at least one magnetic field source 434 configured to deliver the magnetic stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material 432. The at least one magnetic field source 434 can include a single magnet or a plurality of magnets. In an embodiment, the at least one magnetic field source 434 includes at least one electromagnet include a plurality of coils 436 that generate a magnetic field when a current is passed therethrough from an current supply or at least one permanent magnet.

[0091] The magnetic field source 434 can be similar to the electrical energy source 327 (FIG. 3A). For example, the magnetic field source 434 can be at least partially positioned in or on the passive or active layer 412, 414; distinct from the passive and active layers 412, 414; spaced from the passive and active layers 412, 414; or attached to a supportive member that includes the protective member 404. In another example, the active layer 414 can form an at least substantially fluid tight region 431. The region 431 can be at least partially defined by at least one wall 433 and the magnetic field source 434 can form at least a portion, be attached to, or remote from the wall 433. In another example, the region 431 can include a bundle of fibers can be configured to maintain the magnetorheological fluids therein via capillary forces.

[0092] In an embodiment, the magnetorheological fluid includes at least a solid phase and a liquid phase. The solid phase can include a plurality of ferromagnetic particles, such as iron particles. In an embodiment, the solid phase can include at least one of micro-ferromagnetic particles having an average grain size of about 1 .mu.m to about 100 .mu.m (e.g., about 1 .mu.m to about 10 .mu.m, 3 .mu.m to 20 .mu.m, about 1 .mu.m to about 3 .mu.m) or nano-ferromagnetic particles having an average grain size less than about 1 .mu.m. In an embodiment, a mixture of the micro-ferromagnetic particles with the nano-ferromagnetic particles can inhibit the solid phase from precipitating out of the liquid phase. In an embodiment, the ferromagnetic particles can include spherical particles that inhibit the solid phase from precipitating out of the liquid phase. In an embodiment, the ferromagnetic particles can include elongated particles that increase the effect the magnetic stimulus energy has on the magnetorheological fluid. In an embodiment, the solid phase can be about 10% to about 80% of the total volume of the magnetorheological fluid (e.g., about 10% to about 20%, about 20% to about 40%, about 40% to about 50%). The liquid phase can include any suitable liquid, such as water or oil. In an embodiment, the magnetorheological fluid can also include a surfactant to prevent the solid phase from precipitating out of the liquid phase.

[0093] In operation, similar to the protective member 304 (FIG. 3A), the magnetic field source 434 can switch the magnetorheological fluid between at least a first state and a second state. In the first state (e.g., inactive state), the magnetorheological fluid exhibits a first physical property because the magnetic field source 434 does not apply the magnetic stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material 432. In the second state (e.g., active state), the magnetorheological fluid exhibits a second physical property because the energy source 416 applies the magnetic stimulus energy to the magnetorheological fluid. Not to be bound by theory, the magnetic stimulus energy can cause the solid phase to align therewith. As such, the second physical property can be the increased viscosity, increased shear modulus, increased elastic modulus, increased yield stress, etc. of the energy-responsive material 432. As such, the second physical property of the energy-responsive material 432 can cause the energy-responsive material 432 to exhibit one or more of improved force dampening, increase the impact-resistance thereof, increase the indentation-resistance thereof, or increase the tear-resistance thereof, etc. In an embodiment, increasing the magnitude of the magnetic stimulus energy delivered to the magnetorheological fluid can further increase or decrease the change in the physical property of the magnetorheological fluid (e.g., further increase the viscosity thereof). In an embodiment, the magnetic energy source 434 can switch the magnetorheological fluid from the second state to the first state by ceasing to deliver the magnetic stimulus energy to the magnetorheological fluid.

[0094] FIG. 5 is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member 504, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 504 and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404 (FIG. 2-4) and their respective materials, components, or elements. The protective member 504 or its materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0095] The protective member 504 includes at least one passive layer 512 and at least one active layer 514 coupled to the passive layer 512. The active layer 514 includes at least one non-Newtonian fluid. In an embodiment, the non-Newtonian fluid can include at least one of a shear thickening fluid, a shear thinning fluid, a rheopectic fluid, or a thixotropic fluid. In an embodiment, the non-Newtonian fluid can include any fluid that changes at least one of a viscosity thereof when a mechanical energy is applied thereto. The protective member 504 further includes at least one energy source 516 configured to deliver mechanical energy to the non-Newtonian fluid. For example, the energy source 516 can include at least one mechanical actuator 537.

[0096] The mechanical actuator 537 can include any device configured to provide at mechanical energy to the non-Newtonian fluid. For example, the mechanical actuator 537 includes at least one piezoelectric actuator configured to deliver vibrational energy to the non-Newtonian fluid. In another example, the mechanical actuator 537 includes a mixer, such as a magnetic mixer, configured to provide mixing (e.g., turbulence) to the non-Newtonian fluid. In another example, the mechanical actuator 537 includes a MEMS or NEMS device configured to deliver mechanical energy to the non-Newtonian fluid. In another example, the mechanical actuator 537 can include a device configured to deliver a shear stress to the non-Newtonian fluid.

[0097] Similar to the active layer 314 (FIG. 3A), the active layer 514 can include one or more at least substantially fluid tight regions 531 configured to store the non-Newtonian fluids. For example, the active layer 514 includes at least one wall 533 that at least partially defines the region 531. The mechanical actuator 537 can be at least partially disposed in the region 531, at least partially disposed in or incorporated into the wall 533, attached to the wall 533, or spaced from the region 531 and the wall 533. In an embodiment, the region 531 can include a bundle of fibers can be configured to maintain the non-Newtonian fluids therein using capillary forces

[0098] In operation, similar to the protective member 304 (FIG. 3A), the mechanical actuator 537 can switch the non-Newtonian fluid between at least a first state and a second state. In the first state (e.g., inactive state), the non-Newtonian fluid exhibits a first physical property because the mechanical actuator 537 does not deliver the mechanical stimulus energy thereto. In the second state (e.g., active state), the non-Newtonian fluid exhibits a second physical property because the mechanical actuator 537 delivers the mechanical stimulus energy thereto. In an embodiment, the second physical property can be an increased viscosity, an increased shear modulus, an increased elastic modulus, an increased yield stress, etc. (e.g., shear-thickening fluid, rheopectic fluid). In an embodiment, the second physical property can be a decreased viscosity, a decreased shear modulus, a decreased elastic modulus, a decreased yield stress, etc. (e.g., shear-thinning fluid, thixotropic fluid). As such, the second physical property can cause the active layer 514 to exhibit one or more of better force dampening, increase the impact resistance thereof, increase the indentation resistance thereof, increase the tear resistance thereof, cause the protective member 504 to better form to at least one body region on an individual, etc. In an embodiment, increasing the magnitude of the mechanical stimulus energy delivered to the non-Newtonian fluid can further increase or decrease the change in the physical property of the non-Newtonian fluid (e.g., further increase the viscosity thereof). In an embodiment, the mechanical actuator 537 can switch the non-Newtonian fluid between the second state to the first state by ceasing to deliver the mechanical stimulus energy thereto.

[0099] FIG. 6A is a partial cross-sectional view of a protective member 604, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 604 and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, and 504 (FIGS. 3-5) and their respective materials, components, or elements. For example, the protective member 604 can be a cross-sectional view of the protective member 204. The protective member 604 or its materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0100] The protective member 604 includes at least one passive layer 612 and at least one active layer 614 coupled to the passive layer 612. The active layer 614 includes at least one energy-responsive material 632 that is configured to change one physical property thereof responsive to at least one mechanical stimulus energy. The energy-responsive material 632 can include one or more auxetic materials, such as one or more auxetic fibers. The protective member 604 can also include at least one energy source 616 configured to deliver the mechanical stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material 632. For example, the energy source 616 can include at least one mechanical actuator 637.

[0101] The auxetic material can include any material that exhibits a negative Poisson's ratio. For example, the auxetic material can include any material that, when stretched in a first direction (e.g., length-wise direction), extends in one or more second directions (e.g., width-wise direction). For example, the auxetic material can include any material that, when compressed in a first direction (e.g., length-wise direction), compresses in one or more second directions (e.g., width-wise direction). In an embodiment, the auxetic material can include any suitable structure that provides the auxetic material the negative Poisson's ratio. For example, the structure can include at least one of a macrostructure, a microstructure, a nanostructure, or a molecular structure. For example, the structure can include at least one of a reentrant structure, a rotating structure, a hinged structure, or another suitable structure. The auxetic material can be formed from a polymer (e.g., polyurethane foam, polyethylene foam), a composite (e.g., anisotropic composites), metals, or another suitable material.

[0102] The energy source 616 can include any mechanical actuator 637 that causes the auxetic material to expand, contract, vibrate, or otherwise impart at least one mechanical stimulus to the energy-responsive material 632. For example, the energy source 616 can include the same or similar devices as the mechanical actuator 537 (e.g., FIG. 5). In another example, the mechanical actuator 637 can include a device that applies a tensile stress or a compressive stress to the auxetic material, such as a piezoelectric or shape memory actuator that is physically attached or otherwise coupled to the auxetic material. In an embodiment, at least a portion of the mechanical actuator 637 is at least partially positioned in or on the active layer 614. As such, the mechanical actuator 637 can directly apply the mechanical stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material 632. In an embodiment, at least a portion of the mechanical actuator 637 can be at least partially positioned in or on the passive layer 612. In an embodiment, at least a portion of the mechanical actuator 637 can be spaced from the active layer 614 and the passive layer 612. As such, the mechanical actuator 637 can indirectly deliver the stimulus energy to the energy-responsive material.

[0103] In operation, the mechanical actuator 637 can switch the energy-responsive material 632 between at least two of a first, second, or third state. In the first state (e.g., inactive state), the energy-responsive material 632 exhibits a first physical property because the mechanical actuator 637 does not apply the mechanical stimulus energy to the auxetic material. As such, the first physical property can be the natural volume, density, cross-sectional area, shape, porosity, etc. of the energy-responsive material 632.

[0104] In the second state (e.g., first active state), the energy-responsive material 632 exhibits a second physical property because the mechanical actuator 637 applies a first mechanical stimulus to the energy-responsive material 632. FIG. 6B is a cross-sectional view of the energy-responsive material 632 in the second state, according to an embodiment. The first mechanical stimulus energy can cause the energy-responsive material 632 to expand in at least one direction. As such, the second physical property can be an increased volume, decreased density, increased cross-sectional area, modified shape, increased porosity, etc. of the energy-responsive material 632. As such, the second physical property can cause the active layer 614 to exhibit better force dampening, better conformation to at least one body region of the individual thereby causing the force to be distributed against a larger surface area of the individual, etc. In an embodiment, increasing the magnitude of the mechanical stimulus energy delivered to the auxetic material can further increase or decrease the change in the physical property of the auxetic material (e.g., further increase the volume thereof). The mechanical actuator 637 can switch the auxetic material from the second state to the first state by ceasing to deliver the first mechanical stimulus energy thereto.

[0105] In the third state (e.g., second active state), the energy-responsive material 632 exhibits a third physical property because the mechanical actuator 637 delivers a second mechanical stimulus energy to thereto. FIG. 6C is a cross-sectional view of the energy-responsive material 632 in the third state, according to an embodiment. The second mechanical stimulus energy can cause the auxetic material to contract in at least one direction. As such, the third physical property can be a decreased volume, increased density, decreased cross-sectional area, modified shape, decreased porosity, etc. of the auxetic material. As such, the third physical property can cause the active layer 614 to increase one or more of the impact, indentation, or tear resistance thereof, etc. In an embodiment, increasing the magnitude of the mechanical stimulus energy delivered to the auxetic material can further increase or decrease the change in the physical property of the auxetic material (e.g., further decrease the volume thereof). The mechanical actuator 637 can switch the energy-responsive material 632 from the third state to the first state by ceasing to deliver the second mechanical stimulus to the auxetic material. The mechanical actuator 637 can switch the auxetic material from the third state to the second state by delivering the first mechanical stimulus energy to the auxetic material instead of the first mechanical stimulus energy, or vice versa.

[0106] While the energy-responsive materials disclosed herein are mainly disclosed as being at least one of an electrorheological fluid, an electroactive polymer, a magnetorheological fluid, a non-Newtonian fluid, or an auxetic material, it is understood that any suitable energy-responsive material that includes a material that changes at least one property thereof responsive to at least one stimulus energy can be used. For example, the energy-responsive material can include an energy-responsive material that changes at least one property thereof responsive to at least one of thermal energy, electromagnetic energy, or another suitable type of energy.

[0107] The protective members disclosed herein can include more than just two layers. FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional schematic view of a portion of a protective member 704 that includes three layers, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 704 and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604 (FIGS. 2-6C) and their respective materials, components, or elements. The protective member 704 or its materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0108] The protective member 704 includes a first layer 738, a second layer 740 coupled to the first layer 738, and a third layer 742 spaced from the first layer 738 and coupled to the second layer 740. In an embodiment, the first layer 738 can be closer to an individual wearing a supportive member that includes the protective member 704 than the third layer 742. In an embodiment, at least one of (e.g., at least two of) the first, second, or third layers 738, 740, and 742 can be any of the active layers disclosed herein and the remaining first, second, or third layers 738, 740, 742 can be any of the passive layers disclosed herein.

[0109] Forming the protective member 704 from three layers can increase the designability and functionality of the protective member 704. In an embodiment, the first and third layers 738 and 742 can be passive layers and the second layer 740 can be an active layer. For example, the first layer 738 can be a passive layer configured to improve the comfort of the protective member 704, the second layer 740 can be an active layer configured to improve the force dampening of the protective member 704, and the third layer 742 can include a passive layer configured to improve the tear-, impact-, or indentation-resistance of the protective member (e.g., the third layer 742 includes Kevlar). In another example, the first layer 738 and the third layer 742 can be electrodes configured to deliver at least one electrical energy to the second layer 740. In another example, the first layer 738 and the third layer 742 can be configured to appear as normal clothing thereby hiding the presence of the second layer 740.

[0110] In an embodiment, at least two of the first, second, or third layers 738, 740, 742 can be active layers. For example, one of the active layers can be configured to prevent injury from a relatively blunt impact source (e.g., improved force dampening, better conform to at least one body region of an individual) while the other active layer can be configured to prevent injury from a relatively sharp impact source (e.g., improved tear-, impact-, indentation-resistance).

[0111] While only three layers are illustrated, it is understood that the protective member 704 can include additional layers. For example, the protective member 704 can include 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, or more than 10 layers, depending on the embodiment. It is also understood that active layers and the passive layers can be distributed in the protective member 704 in any suitable arrangement. For example, an active or passive layer can be the layer most proximate the individual. In another example, an active or passive layer can be the layer most remote from the individual. In another example, a passive layer can be directly coupled to two active layers, one active layer and another passive layer, or two other passive layers. In another example, an active layer can be directly coupled to two passive layers, one passive layer and another active layer, or two other active layers. In another example, the protective member 704 can have the same number of active and passive layers, more passive layers than active layers, or more active layers than passive layers.

[0112] In an embodiment, any of the protective members disclosed herein can be formed from a single unit. In an embodiment, any of the protective members disclosed herein can be formed from a plurality of segments instead of a single unit. FIG. 8A is a top view of a protective member 804a that includes a plurality of segments 844a, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 804a and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704 (FIGS. 3-7) and their respective materials, components, or elements. The protective member 804a or its materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0113] The protective member 804a includes at least one active layer and at least one passive layer. One or more of the at least one active layer or the at least one passive layer can be formed from a plurality of segments 844a. In the illustrated embodiment, at least a top layer 846a (e.g., an exterior or interior surface) of the protective member 804a is formed from the segments 844a. For example, the segments 844a only form the top layer 846a. In another example, the segments 844a form the top layer 846a and one or more additional layers of the protective member 804a. In an embodiment, the plurality of segments 844a form one or more layers of the protective member 804a that are each distinct from the top layer 846a. In an embodiment, at least one of the segments 844a can be replaceable. For example, at least one of the segments 844a can be detached from the rest of the protective member 804a after the segment 844a is activated or damaged. A replacement segment can be added to the protective member 804a to replace the segment 844a that is removed from the protective member 804a.

[0114] The segments 844a are positioned such that at least some of the segments 844a are positioned at least substantially proximate to (e.g., contact) an immediately adjacent segment 844a. In an embodiment, at least some of the segments 844a can each exhibit one or more shapes or one or more sizes, and together are arranged to form a substantially continuous layer. For example, the substantially continuous layer can have substantially no gaps between each of the segments 844a when the continuous layer is not bent, twisted, stretched, or otherwise deformed. In an embodiment, at least some of the segments 844a can each exhibit one or more shapes or one or more sizes, or are arranged so as to form a discontinuous layer (e.g., at least some of the segments 844a define gaps therebetween). For example, each of at least some of the segments 844a can exhibit a generally octagonal shape and when consolidated, they define generally rectangular gaps therebetween. In an embodiment, each of the plurality of segments 844a can exhibit at least one of a generally circular shape, a generally elliptical shape, a generally triangular shape, a generally rectangular shape, a generally pentagonal shape, a generally hexagonal shape, a generally octagonal shape, a generally polygonal shape, or any other suitable shape. For example, each of the plurality of segments 844a can exhibit a generally triangular shape and some of the plurality of segments 844a can be reversed relative to the remaining segments 844a to form a generally triangular grid-like pattern. In an embodiment, the plurality of segments 844a can be arranged to form at least one of a generally circular shape, a generally elliptical shape, a generally triangular shape, a generally rectangular shape, a generally pentagonal shape, a generally hexagonal shape, a generally octagonal shape, another suitable polygonal shape, or any other suitable shape. In an embodiment, at least some of the segments 844a comprise distinct units. In an embodiment, at least some of the segments 844a each exhibit one or more shapes or one or more sizes, or are arranged so as increase flexibility of protective member 804a. For example, the plurality of segments 844a can include at least one first segment and at least one second segment, wherein the first segment exhibits a shape or size that is different than the second segment.

[0115] In an embodiment, the segments 844a can additionally form part of a passive layer. In such an embodiment, the flexibility of protective member 804a can be improved, the protective member 804a can better conform to at least one body region of an individual, etc., compared to a protective member that includes a passive layer that is not formed from a plurality of segments.

[0116] In an embodiment, the segments 844a can form at least a portion of an active layer. In such an embodiment, one or more of the segments 844a each includes an energy-responsive material, and each of the one or more segments 844a can be selectively activated. For example, an impact source may impact or may be predicted to impact a selected portion of the protective member 804a. In such an example, only the segments 844a that are at or near the actual impact or predicted impact location are activated. Activating only a portion of the segments 844a can improve the efficiency of (e.g., decrease energy used by) the protective member 804a. Similarly, activating only a portion of the plurality of segments 844a can increase the flexibility of the portions of the protective members that are not activated. Additionally, forming an active layer with the plurality of segments 844a can add redundancies into the protective member 804a. For example, if one of the segments 844a is unable to activate (e.g., damaged), other segments 844a thereabout can activate. In an embodiment, each of the segments 844a can include at least two layers (e.g., at least one passive layer and at least one active layer).

[0117] In an embodiment, at least two of the segments 844a can be communicably coupled together. For example, a first segment can sense one or more characteristics and communicate the sensed characteristics to a second segment. In another example, a controller 808a can be disposed in or on a first segment and the controller 808a can be configured to communicate with and at least partially control a second segment (e.g., the second segment does not include a controller). Each of the segments 844a that are communicably coupled together can be wiredly or wirelessly communicably coupled together, can each include a transceiver (e.g., a receiver or a transmitter), etc.

[0118] At least one of the segments 844a can be communicably coupled to and at least partially controlled by at least one controller 808. For example, the controller 808 can be communicably coupled to and at least partially control one or more components of just one of, at least some of, or all of the segments 844a. The controller 808 can be similar to or the same as the controller 208 (FIG. 2). For example, the controller 808 can be at least partially positioned in or on, spaced from, or distinct from the protective member 804a. For instance, the controller 808 can be at least partially positioned in or on at least one of the segments 844a. In an embodiment each of the segments 844a is coupled to and at least partially controlled by a distinct controller 808.

[0119] In an embodiment, the at least one controller 808 can include a plurality of controllers 808 that operate at least partially independently from each other. For example, at least some of the controllers 808 can be communicably coupled together. In particular, each of the controllers 808 that are communicably coupled together can include a transceiver (e.g., in the interface 221 of FIG. 2) that enables the controllers to receive or transmit one or more signals therebetween. The signals can include at least one of one or more operational instructions, one or more information signals, one or more sensed information signals (e.g., a signal indicating deployment of an adjacent segment 844a), one or more control signals (e.g., one of the controllers 808 can at least partially control the operation of another controller 808), one or more programs, etc. In another example, one of the controllers 808 can be communicably coupled to and at least partially control the operation of at least one of the segments 844a. In another example, one of the segments 844a can be communicably coupled to and at least partially controlled by at least one of the controller 808. In another example, at least some of the segments 844a can include at least one of the controllers 808 at least partially positioned therein. For instance, a controller 808 can at least partially control the operation of the segment 844a that includes the controller 808 or at least one segment 844a distinct from the segment 844a that includes the controller 808.

[0120] In an embodiment, at least one of the segments 844a can include at least one energy source 816 at least partially positioned therein or communicably coupled and spaced therefrom. The energy source 816 can be configured to deliver at least one stimulus energy to an energy-responsive material of the segment 844a that includes the energy source 816 or at least one segment 844a that is distinct from the segment 844a that includes the energy source 816. For example, the energy source 816 that is disposed in or on a segment 844a can be configured to deliver at least one stimulus energy to an energy-responsive material of the same segment 844a responsive to a dedicated controller 808 that is also disposed in or on the same segment 844a.

[0121] In an embodiment, at least one of the segments 844a can include at least one power source 826 at least partially positioned therein or communicably coupled and spaced therefrom. The power source 826 can be configured to deliver energy to one or more components of the segment 844a that includes the power source 826 or at least one segment 844a that does not include the power source 826.

[0122] In an embodiment, at least one of the segments 844a can include one or more sensors 806 at least partially positioned therein or spaced therefrom. The sensors 806 can sense one or more characteristics associated with at least one of the segments 844a (e.g., the segment 844a that includes the sensor 806). For example, the sensors 806 can sense impact against or one or more potential impact sources proximate to the segment 844a. The sensors 806 can transmit one or more sensed information signals to one or more controllers 808, for example a dedicated controller 808 of the same segment 844a. In an embodiment each segment 844a includes an energy-responsive material, at least one dedicated controller 808, and at least one dedicated sensor 806.

[0123] In an embodiment, at least one of the segments 844a can be configured to be a unit that acts independently of the other segments 844a ("independent segment"). For example, the independent segment can include one or more dedicated sensors 806, a dedicated energy source 816, a dedicated power source 826, or at least one dedicated controller 808 at least partially disposed therein or thereon. For instance, the dedicated controller 808 can direct the dedicated energy source 816 to activate the energy-responsive material of the independent segment responsive to the dedicated sensors 806 sensing an actual or potential impact against the independent segment. In an embodiment, a plurality of independent segments (e.g., at least some of or all of the segments 844a) can each be configured to be a unit that acts independently of the other segments 844a. In such an embodiment, the plurality of independent segments can form at least a portion of the protective member 804a. For example, some of the independent segments can be activated to form an activated portion of the protective member 804a when each of the activated independent segments sense an actual or potential impact (e.g., an actual or potential impact that is above an impact threshold) while the remaining independent segments are not activated.

[0124] FIG. 8B is a top view of a protective member 804a that includes a plurality of segments 844a, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 804a and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704, 804a (FIGS. 3-8A) and their respective materials, components, or elements. The protective members or their materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0125] The protective member 804b includes a top layer 846b and a bottom layer 848b (e.g., a layer other than the top layer 846b). In the illustrated embodiment, at least the top layer 846b is formed from the segments 844b and at least the bottom layer 848b is formed from a continuous layer (e.g., defines substantially no gaps therebetween). However, other layers of the protective member 804b can be formed from the segments 844b. For example, the segments 844a can form at least one of the bottom layer 848b the top layer 846b, or another layer of the protective member 804b, etc.

[0126] In an embodiment, at least some of the segments 844b are spaced from at least one immediately adjacent segment 844b to form a discontinuous layer. For example, at least some of the plurality of segments 844b can be spaced from at least some of the immediately adjacent segments 844b by a distance "d". The distance d can be the same between each of the segments 844b that are spaced from each other or can vary. For example, the distance d can be about 0.5 mm, 1.0 mm, 1.5 mm, 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm, 6 mm, 8 mm, 1 cm, 2 cm, 3 cm, 4 cm, 5 cm, 6 cm, 8 cm, 10 cm, or a range between any of the above distances. The distance d can also be less than 0.5 mm or greater than 10 cm. The distance d can be selected based on whether the segments 844b form at least one of an active layer, a passive layer, multiple active layers, multiple passive layer, or combinations thereof. The distance d can also be selected based on the energy-responsive material of the active layer, the thickness of the segments 844b, the intended use of the protective member 804b, the type of impact source the segments 844b are intended to protect against, etc.

[0127] In an embodiment, the bottom layer 848b can include any of the layers disclosed herein. For example, the bottom layer 848b can include at least one passive layer or at least one active layer.

[0128] FIG. 8C is a side, cross-sectional view of a protective member 804c that includes a plurality of segments 844c, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 804c and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704, 804a-b (FIGS. 3-8B) and their respective materials, components, or elements. The protective member 804c or their materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0129] The protective member 804c can include a plurality of segments 844c. At least some of the plurality of segments 844c can be arranged to at least partially overlap with each other. For example, 1%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% or greater than 90% of a surface of at least some of the plurality of segments 844c can overlap with each other, including ranges between any of the preceding values. Each of the segments 844c can include at least two layers (e.g., at least one passive layer 812 and at least one active layer 814). The overlapping segments 844c can improve the energy absorption of the protective member 804c.

[0130] FIG. 8D is a side, cross-sectional view of a protective member 804d that includes a plurality of segments 844d, according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective member 804d and its materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704, 804a-c (FIGS. 3-8C) and their respective materials, components, or elements. The protective member 804d or their materials, components, or elements can be used in any of the protective member, supportive member, or system embodiments disclosed herein.

[0131] The protective member 804d can include a plurality of segments 844d and at least some of the segments 844d at least partially overlap with each other. For example, the protective member 804d includes a continuous bottom layer 848d and a top layer 846d. The top layer 846d can extend from the bottom layer 848d and be formed from the segments 844d. In an embodiment, each of the segments 844d can be substantially similar. In an embodiment, at least some of the segments 844d can be different. For example, at least one of the segments 844d can be an active layer, while another of the 844d can be a passive layer. In another example, at least one of the segments 844d can include one or more components that are different than one or more components of another segment 844d.

[0132] In an embodiment, any of the protective members disclosed herein can be at least partially positioned in or on any supportive member that can be worn by an individual. For example, FIGS. 9A-9D are schematics of different supportive members that can include any of the protective members disclosed herein, according to different embodiments. Except as otherwise described herein, the protective members shown in FIGS. 9A-9D and their materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704, 804a-d (FIGS. 2-8D) and their respective materials, components, or elements.

[0133] As shown in FIG. 9A, in embodiments, the supportive member 910a can include or be configured generally in a form of a shirt, another garment, etc. designed to cover at least a portion of a torso, abdomen, shoulders, or arm. The supportive member 910a can be configured as a polo shirt, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, short sleeved shirt, sleeveless shirt, vest, jersey (e.g., football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, or rugby jersey), sweatshirt, coat, jacket, protective gear (e.g., a rib vest) or any other garment or item (e.g., outerwear, innerwear) that at least partially covers an abdominal region, spinal region, back region, thoracic region, of an individual. In an embodiment, the supportive member 910a can include protective member 904a positioned at any number of suitable locations (e.g., near the abdomen portion of the individual, as shown in FIG. 9A). For example, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect at least one of the upper right portion (e.g., right hypochondrium), the upper central portion (e.g., epigastrium), upper left portion (e.g., left hypochondrium), the middle right portion (e.g., right lumber region), the middle central portion (e.g., umbilical region), the middle left portion (e.g., left lumber region), bottom right portion (e.g., right iliac fossa), bottom central portion (e.g., hypogastrium), or the bottom left portion (e.g., left iliac fossa) of the abdominal region.

[0134] The protective member 904a can be positioned to protect at least one of a spleen, colon (e.g., right colon, sigmoid colon, descending colon), left kidney, right kidney, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, duodenum, adrenal glands, umbilicus, jejunum, ileum, appendix, cecum, urinary bladder, female reproductive glands, etc. In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect at least one of the right upper quadrant, the left upper quadrant, the right lower quadrant, or the left lower quadrant of the abdominal region. In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect a spine of the individual, such as at least one of the cervical spine (e.g., the shirt includes a collar), thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacral spine, or tailbone. In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect a chest of an individual, such as at least one of the true ribs, false ribs, floating ribs, sternum, clavicle, the jugular notch, pectoral region, sternal region, etc. In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect a back of the individual, such at least one of lower back, upper back, scapular regions, interscapular region, lumbar region, sacral region, coxal region, inguinal region, gluteal region, etc. In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially provide skeletal support to at least one of the abdominal region, spinal region, back region, thoracic region, or arm of the individual.

[0135] In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect an arm of the individual, such as at least one of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, forearm, acromial region, brachial region, cubital region, antebrachial region, or another portion of the arm. In embodiments, the supportive member 910a can include or be configured generally in a form of, a sleeve, a shoulder brace, wrist brace, an elbow brace, or other gear or garment for covering a portion or all of an arm. In an embodiment, the protective member 904a can be positioned to at least partially protect at least a portion of a hand of the individual, such as at least one of carpal region, palmar region, finger, or another portion of the hand. In embodiments, the supportive member 910a can include or be configured generally in a form of a glove, a finger cot, or other gear or garment for covering a portion or all of a hand.

[0136] FIG. 9B is a schematic of the supportive member 910b that is configured in the shape of a head-cover that includes protective member 904b, according to an embodiment. The supportive member 910b can be configured as a baseball cap, football helmet, motocross helmet, safety helmet, scrum cap, bicycle helmet, hockey helmet, face mask, chin guard, mouth guard, glasses, or any other garment that at least partially covers a portion of an individual's head. Generally, the protective member 904b can be positioned at any suitable portion(s) of the supportive member 910b. For example, the protective member 904b can be positioned to at least partially protect at least one of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, tongue, chin, jaw, cheek, facial region, cranial region, cervical region, nuchal region, forehead, temple, crown, nape of the neck, occipital protuberance, parietal ridge, side, top, or another portion of the head. In an embodiment, the protective member 904b can be positioned to at least partially provide skeletal support to at least one of the head of the individual.

[0137] FIG. 9C is a schematic of the supportive member 910c that is configured in the shape of pants that includes protective member 904c, according to an embodiment. The supportive member 910c can be configured as pants or similar garments or gear of any suitable length generally designed to cover at least a portion of each of two legs, or other garment or gear generally designed to cover at least a portion of at least one leg, or other garment or gear generally designed to cover at least a portion of a pelvis. For example, the supportive member can include full length trousers, shorts (e.g., basketball shorts), capri pants, skirts, dresses, kilts, jeans, leggings, football pants, baseball knickers, hockey pants, rugby trousers, knee brace, ankle brace, jockstrap, boxer briefs, or any other garment (e.g., outerwear, innerwear) that at least partially covers at least a portion of at least one of a leg or a pelvic region of an individual. For example, the supportive member 910c can at least partially protect at least one of an ankle, calf, shin, knee, thigh, male reproductive organs, female reproductive organs, lower abdominal region (e.g., iliac fossa), waist, rectal region, pubic region, coxal region, inguinal region, gluteal region, sacral region, lower lumbar region, perineal region, popliteal region, calcaneal region, crural region, tarsal region, dorsum of foot, patellar region, etc. The supportive member 910c can be configured as footwear (not shown), such as a sock, shoes, sandals, slippers, or any other item that covers at least a portion of a foot. For example, the supportive member 910c can at least partially protect at least one of a toe, arch, or heel. In an embodiment, the supportive member 910c be positioned to at least partially provide skeletal support to at least one of the feet, legs, or pelvic region of the individual.

[0138] In an embodiment, the supportive member 910c can be configured generally in a form of a single unit of clothing (not illustrated) that substantially covers at least the majority of the torso or the majority of a body of the individual. For example, the supportive member can be a jumpsuit, a flight suit, a unitard, a wetsuit, an undergarment (e.g., a union suit), etc. For example, the single unit of clothing can cover all of a limb (e.g., have long sleeves or long pant legs) or a portion of the limb (e.g., have short sleeves or short pant legs). In one example, an undergarment can be worn under additional protective gear, such as protective athletic gear, protective safety gear (e.g., fire protection) or protective environmental gear (e.g., SCUBA gear or a space suit).

[0139] In an embodiment, the supportive member 910c can be configured to be worn by a nonhuman animal. For example, the supportive member 910c can be configured to be worn by a rescue animal, such as a dog, or military animal, such as a dog or horse. For example, the supportive member 910c might be configured to cover a torso, a pelvis, a shoulder, a leg, a paw or hoof, a head, a neck, or a spine of an animal. For example, the supportive member 910c might be configured as a vest, a helmet, a neck cover, or a cover for a paw or leg.

[0140] FIG. 9D is a schematic of the supportive member 910d that is configured in the shape of a sleeve that includes protective member 904d, according to an embodiment. The supportive member 910d can be any item of clothing configured to protect only a single limb of an individual. As such, the protective member 904d can be positioned to at least partially protect at least one of a wrist, hand, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle, calf, shin, or another suitable body part. In an embodiment, the protective member 904d can be positioned to at least partially provide skeletal support to the individual.

[0141] In an embodiment, a supportive member can be configured generally in a form of a single unit of clothing (not illustrated) that substantially covers at least the majority of the torso or the majority of a body of the individual. For example, the supportive member can be a jumpsuit, a flight suit, a unitard, a wetsuit, an under garment (e.g., a union suit), etc. For example, the single unit of clothing can cover all of a limb (e.g., have long sleeves or long pant legs) or a portion of the limb (e.g., have short sleeves or short pant legs). In one example, an undergarment can be worn under additional protective gear, such as protective athletic gear, protective safety gear (e.g., fire protection) or protective environmental gear (e.g., SCUBA gear or a space suit).

[0142] In an embodiment, a supportive member can be configured to be worn by a nonhuman animal. For example, the supportive member can be configured to be worn by a rescue animal, such as a dog, or military animal, such as a dog or horse. For example, the supportive member might be configured to cover a torso, a pelvis, a shoulder, a leg, a paw or hoof, a head, a neck, or a spine of an animal. For example, the supportive member might be configured as a vest, a helmet, a neck cover, or a cover for a paw or leg.

[0143] Any of the supportive members or protective members disclosed herein can be used in a system. In an embodiment, the system can include multiple supportive members operably coupled to one or more controllers. FIG. 10A is a schematic illustration of system 1000a that includes a plurality of supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a''according to an embodiment. Each of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' includes at least one protective member 1004a, 1004a', 1004a''. Except as otherwise described herein, the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a''and the protective members 1004a, 1004a', 1004a'' illustrated in FIG. 10A and their materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the supportive members 910a-d and the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704, 804a-d, 904a-d (FIGS. 3-9D), respectively, and their respective materials, components, or elements.

[0144] In an embodiment, the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' are communicably coupled together. For example, each of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can include a corresponding controller that can control operation thereof or receive signals from one or more sensors (not shown). The controllers can be operably coupled together or in communication with one another. For example, the controllers transmit information or data to one another (e.g., data or signals from one or more sensors, data or signals related to one or more control signals, such as control signals to reconfigure one or more of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'', etc.). In an embodiment, at least one of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' (e.g., one or more of the controllers) can include a communication device (e.g., at least one of a receiver or transmitter) that can be integrated with or operably coupled to the corresponding controller of the controllers or can be standalone (e.g., operably to one or more sensors on or near the protected garment).

[0145] The supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' that are communicably coupled together can transmit any number of suitable system signals 1053 to each other. The system signals 1053 can include, for example, at least one of location, speed, direction of movement, or acceleration of at least one of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'', and the operation of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can be controlled responsive to receiving the signals. For example, the signals can include one or more sensing signals, one or more operational instructions, one or more control signals, one or more programs, information from a database, etc.

[0146] In an embodiment, the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can be worn by multiple individuals (e.g., the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can be configured as shirts that can be worn by multiple individuals). Additionally or alternatively, the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can be worn by the same individual (e.g., multiple garments that can protect corresponding body portions of the individual). In an embodiment, each of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can be substantially similar or the same. In an embodiment, at least one of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can be different than another supportive member 1010a, 1010a', 1010a''. For example, at least two of the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' can include at least one of different components, different active layers (e.g., different energy-responsive materials), different passive layers, a different arrangement of layers, different positioning of the protective member 1004a, 1004a', 1004a'' (i.e., each protective member 1004a, 1004a', 1004a'' can be positioned to at least partially protect a different part of the body), different types of supportive members (e.g., shirts, hats, pants, or sleeves), etc.

[0147] FIG. 10B is a schematic of a system 1000b that includes a plurality of supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', according to an embodiment. Except as otherwise described herein, the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' its FIG. 10A and their materials, components, or elements can be similar to or the same as the supportive members 1010a, 1010a', 1010a'' (FIGS. 10A) and their respective materials, components, or elements. For example, each of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' can include a protective member 1004b, 1004b', 1004b'' that is substantially similar to or the same as at least one of the protective members 204, 304, 404, 504, 604, 704, 804a-d, 904a-d (FIGS. 3-9D).

[0148] As previously discussed, the system 1000b includes a plurality of supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' that each include at least one protective member 1004b, 1004b', 1004b'' configured to protect one or more portions of an individual. At least some of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' can be communicably coupled together. The system 1000b also includes a central computing unit (CCU) 1054. The CCU 1054 can be communicably coupled to at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b''. The CCU 1054 can be at least one of a laptop, desktop computing device, tablet, mobile computing device (e.g., smart phone), remote control, or another suitable electronic device. The system 1000b can further include one or more sensors 1006 configured to sense one or more characteristics of the system 1000b. The sensors 1006 can include any of the sensors disclosed herein. The one or more sensors 1006 can be at least partially positioned in or on at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', the CCU 1054, remote from the CCU 1054, or another structure at least proximate to the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' (e.g., sensors 1006 setup around a playing field, in a stadium, etc.).

[0149] The CCU 1054 can include a CCU controller 1008 that is communicably coupled to one or more components of the system 1000. For example, the CCU controller 1008 can be communicably coupled to at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' (e.g., communicably coupled to at least one controller of at least one of the protective members 1004b, 1004b', 1004b''), the sensors 1006, another component of the CCU 1054, or another component of the system 1000. In an embodiment, the CCU controller 1008 is configured to at least partially control the operation of at least one of the components that are communicably coupled thereto.

[0150] In an embodiment, the CCU controller 1008 can include memory storage medium 1018. The memory storage medium 1018 can include any of the memory storage mediums disclosed herein. The memory storage medium 1018 can store at least one of one or more operational instructions, one or more programs, or one or more databases thereon. The databases can include information regarding at least one of actual impact or potential impact against at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', information about at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', medical history of at least one individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', the sensed information signals or another signal received at the CCU controller 1008, or any other suitable database. The one or more operational instructions can include how to determine whether a potential impact or actual impact exceeds a threshold level (e.g., an impact threshold level or an injury threshold level), when to provide or deny access to at least one of the databases, programs that are to be executed by the control electrical circuitry 1018, etc. The CCU controller 1008 can also include at least one processor 1019 that is communicably coupled to the memory storage medium 1018. The processor 1019 can be substantially similar to the processor 219 (FIG. 2).

[0151] In an embodiment, the CCU 1054 includes an interface 1021 that is similar to or the same as the interface 221 (FIG. 2). The interface 1021 can form a part of the CCU controller 1008 or can be distinct from and communicably coupled to the CCU controller 1008. The interface 1021 is configured to communicably couple the CCU 1054 to at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', the sensors 1006, or another component of the system 1000b. For example, the interface 1021 can include a transceiver configured to receive or transmit at least one of one or more sensed information signals, one or more information signals 1017, one or more operational instructions, one or more control signals 1024, or one or more system signals 1053b.

[0152] In an embodiment, the CCU 1054 also includes a user interface 1025. The user interface 1025 enables the CCU 1054 to communicate with an entity. The entity can include an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', a user of the CCU 1054 (e.g., medical personnel, physical trainers, coaches, commanding officers, etc.), a computing device distinct and remote from the CCU 1054, a tablet, a mobile computing device (e.g., smart phone), a remote control, etc. For example, the user interface 1025 can include a display 1058 or one or more inputs 1060. The display 1058 can be configured to display or otherwise convey (e.g., via speakers) information to the entity. The inputs 1060 can enable the entity to communicate with the CCU 1054. The inputs 1060 can include a mouse, a keyboard, a USB port, a touchscreen, a microphone, etc. As such, the inputs 1060 enable the entity to provide one or more operational instructions or programs to the CCU 1054 that can be stored on the memory storage medium 1018.

[0153] In an embodiment, the user interface 1025 is configured to inform the entity about the system 1000b. For example, the user interface 1025 can provide to the entity information about one or more previous impacts. In another example, the user interface 1025 can inform the entity that one or more active layers of the system 1000b have been activated. In another example, the user interface 1025 can provide at least one sensed information signal 1017 to the entity. In another example, the user interface 1025 can indicate to the entity the readiness of one or more portions of at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b''. For instance, the user interface 1025 can indicate if one or more protective members 1004b of at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' are functioning or if one or more of the protective members 1004b, 1004b', 1004b'' are not functioning properly (e.g., need repair, a power source requires charging, etc.).

[0154] In an embodiment, the CCU 1054 can provide one or more recommendations based on a threshold having been met or exceeded. In an embodiment, the CCU 1054 can provide one or more recommendations that an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' should be removed to a safe location, removed from an athletic event, or medical assistance may be required. The one or more recommendations can be based on whether one or more threshold levels (e.g., an injury threshold level or an impact threshold level) have been met or exceeded. The threshold level can be a selected likelihood that an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' was injured from an actual impact or a potential impact (e.g., the CCU 1054 provides the one or more recommendations before the actual impact). The CCU 1054 can determine that at least one threshold level has been met or exceeded based on the sensed information signals received by the CCU 1054 from the sensors 1006. The sensed information signals can include any of the characteristics disclosed herein, such as a force applied to at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', a radius of curvature of the impact source, a motion (e.g., speed, direction, location, acceleration, deceleration) of at least one of the supportive members 1010b, one or more sensed characteristics of an individual (e.g., heartrate), etc.

[0155] In an embodiment, the threshold level can be a selected likelihood that an actual impact punctured an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b''. For example, the threshold level can be determined based on at least the force of the impact and the radius of curvature of the impact source. In an embodiment, the threshold level can be the likelihood that an actual impact broke or fractured a bone of an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b''. For example, the threshold level can be determined based on at least a location on the individual that is impacted and a force applied to the location. In an embodiment, the threshold level can be the likelihood that an actual impact damaged a body part (e.g., ruptured spleen, concussion, fractured a joint, contusion, etc.) of an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b''. For example, the threshold level can be determined based on at least a location on the individual that is impacted and a force applied to the location.

[0156] The threshold level can be when an actual impact has a likelihood of less than 1%, 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, 40%, 45%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 90%, 95%, or about 100% of causing an injury, including ranges between any of the percentages. In an embodiment, the threshold level is predetermined and is stored on a memory storage medium (e.g., memory storage medium 218 in FIG. 2) of the CCU 1054. In an embodiment, the threshold level is determined based on information stored on the memory storage medium. For example, the threshold level can be determined at least partially based on an individual's medical history. In an embodiment, the threshold level can vary. For example, an impact that can cause a severe injury to an individual can have a lower threshold level (e.g., lower likelihood of injury) than an impact that can cause a minor injury. In another example, the threshold level may vary based on a time of day, an activity of an individual wearing at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', etc.

[0157] In an embodiment, the CCU 1054 can provide one or more recommendations that at least a portion of at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' (e.g., a segment of at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'') needs to be replaced. The one or more recommendations can be based on whether one or more impact threshold levels have been met or exceeded. The CCU 1054 can determine that at least one impact threshold level has been met or exceeded based on the sensed information signals received by the CCU 1054 from the sensors 1006. The sensed information signals can include any of the characteristics disclosed herein, such as a force applied to at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', the number of times at least a portion of the supportive member 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' has deployed, or the length of time the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' has been in use.

[0158] In an embodiment, a threshold level is predetermined and is stored on the memory storage medium 1018. In an embodiment, the threshold level is determined based on information stored on the memory storage medium 1018. For example, the threshold level can be determined at least partially based on an individual's medical history. In an embodiment, the threshold level can vary. For example, an impact that can cause or lead to a severe injury to an individual can have a lower threshold level (e.g., lower likelihood of injury) than an impact that can cause a minor injury. In another example, the threshold level may vary based on a time of day, an activity of an individual wearing the supportive member 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'', etc.

[0159] In an embodiment, at least one of the supportive members 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' can be configured to determine a threshold level and to alert an individual wearing the supportive member 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' that the threshold level has been met or exceeded. For example, at least one controller of the supportive member 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' can be configured to determine whether the threshold level has been met or exceeded at least partially based on one or more sensed information signals received by the controller. The supportive member 1010b, 1010b', 1010b'' can include a user interface configured to alert the individual or another entity when the threshold level has been met or exceeded. For example, the device can include a speaker that emits a sound when the threshold level has been met or exceeded. In such an embodiment, the CCU 1054 can be omitted.

[0160] Furthermore, in an embodiment, any of the controllers (e.g., controller 1008) or sensors 1006 can transmit information or data to one or more data storage devices or systems that can be associated with or can include medical records (e.g., medical records of the individual wearing the supportive member(s)). For example, the controller can store or transmit data related to the number and severity of impacts received by an individual (e.g., impact force imparted onto the individual, impact energy absorbed by the individual, location(s) of impact(s), etc.). In an embodiment, the medical records of the individual can be associated with or can receive information related to the impact(s) to assess effects of the impact(s) on the health of the individual, to assess whether the individual may need to seek medical attention, etc.

[0161] It will be understood that a wide range of hardware, software, firmware, or virtually any combination thereof can be used in the controllers described herein. In one embodiment, several portions of the subject matter described herein can be implemented via Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), digital signal processors (DSPs), or other integrated formats. However, some aspects of the embodiments disclosed herein, in whole or in part, can be equivalently implemented in integrated circuits, as one or more programs running on one or more processors (e.g., as one or more programs running on one or more microprocessors), as firmware, or as virtually any combination thereof. In addition, the reader will appreciate that the mechanisms of the subject matter described herein are capable of being distributed as a program product in a variety of forms, and that an illustrative embodiment of the subject matter described herein applies regardless of the particular type of signal bearing medium used to actually carry out the distribution.

[0162] In a general sense, the various embodiments described herein can be implemented, individually and/or collectively, by various types of electro-mechanical systems having a wide range of electrical components such as hardware, software, firmware, or virtually any combination thereof; and a wide range of components that can impart mechanical force or motion such as rigid bodies, spring or torsional bodies, hydraulics, and electro-magnetically actuated devices, or virtually any combination thereof. Consequently, as used herein "electro-mechanical system" includes, but is not limited to, electrical circuitry operably coupled with a transducer (e.g., an actuator, a motor, a piezoelectric crystal, etc.), electrical circuitry having at least one discrete electrical circuit, electrical circuitry having at least one integrated circuit, electrical circuitry having at least one application specific integrated circuit, or a microprocessor configured by a computer program which at least partially carries out processes and/or devices described herein), electrical circuitry forming a memory device (e.g., forms of random access memory), electrical circuitry forming a communications device (e.g., a modem, communications switch, or optical-electrical equipment), and any non-electrical analog thereto, such as optical or other analogs.

[0163] In a general sense, the various aspects described herein which can be implemented, individually and/or collectively, by a wide range of hardware, software, firmware, or any combination thereof can be viewed as being composed of various types of "electrical circuitry." Consequently, as used herein "electrical circuitry" includes, but is not limited to, electrical circuitry having at least one discrete electrical circuit, electrical circuitry having at least one integrated circuit, electrical circuitry having at least one application specific integrated circuit, or a microprocessor configured by a computer program which at least partially carries out processes and/or devices described herein), electrical circuitry forming a memory device (e.g., forms of random access memory), and/or electrical circuitry forming a communications device (e.g., a modem, communications switch, or optical-electrical equipment). The subject matter described herein can be implemented in an analog or digital fashion or some combination thereof.

[0164] The herein described components (e.g., steps), devices, and objects and the discussion accompanying them are used as examples for the sake of conceptual clarity. Consequently, as used herein, the specific exemplars set forth and the accompanying discussion are intended to be representative of their more general classes. In general, use of any specific exemplar herein is also intended to be representative of its class, and the non-inclusion of such specific components (e.g., steps), devices, and objects herein should not be taken as indicating that limitation is desired.

[0165] With respect to the use of substantially any plural and/or singular terms herein, the reader can translate from the plural to the singular and/or from the singular to the plural as is appropriate to the context and/or application. The various singular/plural permutations are not expressly set forth herein for sake of clarity.

[0166] The herein described subject matter sometimes illustrates different components contained within, or connected with, different other components. It is to be understood that such depicted architectures are merely exemplary, and that in fact many other architectures can be implemented which achieve the same functionality. In a conceptual sense, any arrangement of components to achieve the same functionality is effectively "associated" such that the desired functionality is achieved. Hence, any two components herein combined to achieve a particular functionality can be seen as "associated with" each other such that the desired functionality is achieved, irrespective of architectures or intermedial components. Likewise, any two components so associated can also be viewed as being "operably connected," or "operably coupled," to each other to achieve the desired functionality, and any two components capable of being so associated can also be viewed as being "operably couplable," to each other to achieve the desired functionality. Specific examples of operably couplable include but are not limited to physically mateable and/or physically interacting components and/or wirelessly interactable and/or wirelessly interacting components and/or logically interacting and/or logically interactable components.

[0167] In some instances, one or more components can be referred to herein as "configured to." The reader will recognize that "configured to" or "adapted to" are synonymous and can generally encompass active-state components and/or inactive-state components and/or standby-state components, unless context requires otherwise.

[0168] While particular aspects of the present subject matter described herein have been shown and described, it will be apparent that, based upon the teachings herein, changes and modifications can be made without departing from the subject matter described herein and its broader aspects and, therefore, the appended claims are to encompass within their scope all such changes and modifications as are within the true spirit and scope of the subject matter described herein. Furthermore, it is to be understood that the invention is defined by the appended claims. In general, terms used herein, and especially in the appended claims (e.g., bodies of the appended claims) are generally intended as "open" terms (e.g., the term "including" should be interpreted as "including but not limited to," the term "having" should be interpreted as "having at least," the term "includes" should be interpreted as "includes but is not limited to," etc.). It will be further understood that if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is intended, such an intent will be explicitly recited in the claim, and in the absence of such recitation no such intent is present. For example, as an aid to understanding, the following appended claims can contain usage of the introductory phrases "at least one" and "one or more" to introduce claim recitations. However, the use of such phrases should not be construed to imply that the introduction of a claim recitation by the indefinite articles "a" or "an" limits any particular claim containing such introduced claim recitation to inventions containing only one such recitation, even when the same claim includes the introductory phrases "one or more" or "at least one" and indefinite articles such as "a" or "an" (e.g., "a" and/or "an" should typically be interpreted to mean "at least one" or "one or more"); the same holds true for the use of definite articles used to introduce claim recitations. In addition, even if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is explicitly recited, such recitation should typically be interpreted to mean at least the recited number (e.g., the bare recitation of "two recitations," without other modifiers, typically means at least two recitations, or two or more recitations). Furthermore, in those instances where a convention analogous to "at least one of A, B, and C, etc." is used, in general such a construction is intended in the sense the convention (e.g., "a system having at least one of A, B, and C" would include but not be limited to systems that have A alone, B alone, C alone, A and B together, A and C together, B and C together, and/or A, B, and C together, etc.). In those instances where a convention analogous to "at least one of A, B, or C, etc." is used, in general such a construction is intended in the sense the convention (e.g., "a system having at least one of A, B, or C" would include but not be limited to systems that have A alone, B alone, C alone, A and B together, A and C together, B and C together, and/or A, B, and C together, etc.). Virtually any disjunctive word and/or phrase presenting two or more alternative terms, whether in the description, claims, or drawings, should be understood to contemplate the possibilities of including one of the terms, either of the terms, or both terms. For example, the phrase "A or B" will be understood to include the possibilities of "A" or "B" or "A and B."

[0169] With respect to the appended claims, any recited operations therein can generally be performed in any order. Examples of such alternate orderings can include overlapping, interleaved, interrupted, reordered, incremental, preparatory, supplemental, simultaneous, reverse, or other variant orderings, unless context dictates otherwise. With respect to context, even terms like "responsive to," "related to," or other past-tense adjectives are generally not intended to exclude such variants, unless context dictates otherwise.

[0170] While various aspects and embodiments have been disclosed herein, the various aspects and embodiments disclosed herein are for purposes of illustration and are not intended to be limiting, with the true scope and spirit being indicated by the following claims.

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