Logo for the Journal of Rehab R and D

Volume 46 Number 7, 2009
   Pages 957 — 962

Abstract —  Effect of mobility devices on orientation sensors that contain magnetometers

Cynthia Kendell, BSc;* Edward D. Lemaire, PhD

The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Abstract — Orientation sensors containing magnetometers use the earth's magnetic field as a reference. Ferromagnetic objects may distort this magnetic field, leading to inaccurate orientation output. We explored the viability of these orientation sensors for motion analysis in an assistive mobility device rehabilitative setting. We attached two MTx orientation sensors (XSens; Enschade, the Netherlands), connected to the XBus Master data collection unit (XSens), to a plastic frame such that the relative angle between sensors was constant. We then moved a series of mobility devices in proximity to the plastic frame: two knee-ankle-foot orthoses (aluminum, stainless steel), one ankle-foot orthosis, two transtibial prostheses (exoskeletal, endoskeletal), two walkers (standard, Challenger Low Wide [Evolution Technologies; Port Coquitlam, Canada]), and two wheelchairs (Tango [OrthoFab; Quebec City, Canada], GTi [Quickie; Phoenix, Arizona]). For each mobility device, we calculated the average difference in relative angle between the baseline and peak angles for each of five trials. Errors ranged from less than 0.10 to 35.29 degrees, depending on the mobility device and frame positioning near the device. This demonstrated the large errors that can occur when magnetometer-based orientation sensors with mobility devices are used. While strategic orientation sensor placement on some mobility devices can minimize these errors to an acceptable level, testing protocols should be implemented to verify orientation sensor accuracy for these applications.

Key words: accelerometers, biomechanics, gyroscopes, inertial sensors, kinematics, magnetometers, mobility device, motion analysis, orientation sensor, rehabilitation.

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