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The Philosophy Of StretchSense

I brush against virtually every discipline of knowledge in my job. Some are obvious for an engineering startup CEO – finances, legal, management, IP, engineering, pizza, blah blah blah. It is deeply satisfying when I get to do philosophy.

We sell sensors to measure things that no one has measured before. This causes a problem – we have no way to verify accuracy. This is an ancient challenge called the measurement problem [1], which we can understand like this:

I sell you a ruler.
You ask: “How accurate is that ruler?”
I give you another ruler to check.
You ask: “How accurate is that ruler?”
Repeat.

We cannot ever know with 100% certainty how accurate any sensor is so I am forever discussing philosophy with customers.

Whenever we make a measurement we are actually doing two things – building an apparatus to make the measurement (a sensor or a ruler) and building a theory about what the sensor data means. When we measure something for the first time we build a best guess apparatus and make a best guess theory. We then use the apparatus, test the results of the theory, and use the data to improve both. That’s it.

The difference between an atomic clock and a bucket fountain is that one has been through many tight iterations of refinement and construction so we assume it is more accurate.

This is why our business is how it is. We sell you a sensor – this is our best guess for your measurement apparatus. You form a theory (sensor stretch in a garment is related in some way to knee angle) – this is your best guess. You test it out and get the data. Then you send us specs for a refined sensor and improve your theory.

Together we hone in on what works. Using Philosophy.

[1] Eran Tal Old and New Problems in Philosophy of Measurement Philosophy Compass 8/12 (2013): 1159–1173, 10.1111/phc3.12089 (sorry it’s behind a paywall)

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