Real-Time Limb Motion Tracking with a Single IMU Sensor for Physical Therapy Exercises


Limb exercises are common in physical therapy to improve range of motion (RoM), strength, and flexibility of the arm/leg. To improve therapy outcomes and reduce cost, motion tracking systems have been used to monitor the user’s movements when performing the exercises and provide guidance. Traditional motion tracking systems are based on either cameras or inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors. Camera-based systems face problems caused by occlusion and lighting. Traditional IMU-based systems require at least two IMU sensors to track the motion of the entire limb, which is not convenient for use. In this paper, we propose a novel limb motion tracking system that uses a single 9-axis IMU sensor that is worn on the distal end joint of the limb (i.e., wrist for the arm or ankle for the leg). Limb motion tracking using a single IMU sensor is a challenging problem because 1) the noisy IMU data will cause drift problem when estimating position from the acceleration data, 2) the single IMU sensor measures the motion of only one joint but the limb motion consists of motion from multiple joints. To solve these problems, we propose a recurrent neural network (RNN) model to estimate the 3D positions of the distal end joint as well as the other joints of the limb (e.g., elbow or knee) from the noisy IMU data in real time. Our proposed approach achieves high accuracy with a median error of 4.4/4.1 cm for the wrist/elbow joint when tracking the arm motion, outperforming the state-of-the-art approach by 50%. In addition, the proposed model is lightweight, enabling real-time applications on mobile devices.

Author: Wenchuan Wei, Keiko Kurita, Jilong Kuang, Alex Gao

Published: Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference (EMBC)

Date: Oct 31, 2021