Key insights and resources taken from the IET Human Motion Analysis for Healthcare Applications seminar in May 2016, organised by the IET Vision and Imaging Network.
Advances in technology that can monitor human motion have led to the creation of a number of sensors such as Microsoft Kinect, PrimeSense Carmine and Leap Motion. Although originally designed for the computer game market, they have inspired a growth in interest in human motion analysis within the healthcare sector, focusing on areas such as rehabilitation, surgery and assisted living.
“In an ageing society, the proportion of people that need healthcare support is increasing,” notes Dr Dimitrios Makris, from Kingston University. “This is a great opportunity for engineers to develop systems that assist clinicians and/or support patients into health self-managing.”
Enablers have included cost and modality, as University College London’s Dr Ian McCarthy explains.
“The reason this has become a hot topic within healthcare is primarily because technological developments have brought costs down and allowed it to be performed much easier. Until recently motion analysis was performed in a dedicated laboratory and systems would have cost tens of thousands of pounds.”
“Depth cameras are now affordable, well supported and widely accessible,” continues Dr Makris. “They are non-intrusive in comparison to traditional systems and the modality they offer is much more effective in interpreting human body posture and movement than traditional RGB cameras.”
It’s exciting times, but with new developments there are always challenges. Technologists are having to consider several issues, such as managing the data deluge; turning it into useful information for doctors and patients, as well as familiarisation with the new technology.
Then there’s learning methods of analysis human motion based on fairly advanced disciplines such as biomechanics, machine learning and computer vision, and finally, communicating with healthcare professionals to identify requirements and ensure new systems are fit for purpose.
Rising to the challenge, we’re already seeing several technical developments in the area including inertial measurement units (IMU), usually comprising of tri-axial accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. For example, Ian has a student currently using IMUs to assess recovery after total knee replacement surgery.
“She’s been able to measure a large number of patients in outpatient clinics or in their homes, and using the data has been able to direct rehabilitation exercises to improve outcome,” he says. “An important development in rehabilitation will be to combine motion analysis with VR, so that visual feedback can be provided to assist patients, or they can be motivated through ‘exergaming’.
According to Professor Christopher James, Director, Warwick Engineering in Biomedicine, wearable health-tech is another growing area that could also move into human motion analysis.
“Wearable heath-tech such as smart watches, jewellery, clothing are some of the latest technologies. Over the next few years we could perhaps see small, lightweight, self-powered implants that monitor and transmit information,” he says. “Already we can RFID ‘tag’ people – if we can add sensors to those tags we could really sense wellbeing and monitor illness quite deeply.”
View Professor Christopher James’ presentation on IET.tv: Extracting Behaviour from Activity for Wellness Monitoring
But as well as improving the healthcare of specific patients, Ian notes that human motion analysis could lead to much larger changes that could improve mobility and accessibility for the wider public.
“In the near future sensors should be able to asses how people move through real environments, which could inform urban design, improving accessibility for the disabled and ageing populations.”
View the rest of the presentations below by visiting www.theiet.org/human-motion
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