Bodies in Motion
Analog Devices sensors power 3-D data collection.
At a recent rowing conference in the Netherlands, athletes gathered around an animated image of a competitive rower on a large, flat-panel screen to view a demo of 3-D human motion analysis. “That looks like Simon,” an attendee blurted. That’s because the image had been built based on data collected by observing his teammate, Dutch Olympic rower Diederik Simon. “These are rowers on the highest level, and I would expect very little variance among them,” says Chris Baten, program manager at Roessingh Research and Development, a research center that specializes in physical rehabilitation technology. “But the results were clear enough to be recognized, which holds great promise for the system.”
That system, marketed as the MVN System by Dutch company Xsens Technologies BV, uses high-performance microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, inertial sensors from Analog Devices Inc. (NYSE: ADI). In a sport for which timing and smooth application of power are essential, painting an accurate picture of an athlete’s motions allows coaches and rowers to make adjustments that will improve the balance and speed of the boat, says Mark Martin, vice president of Analog’s MEMS and Sensors Group, noting that the sensors measure both 3-D linear acceleration and angular velocity. Colleen Monaghan, product manager of movement science at Xsens, adds: “Xsens algorithms and biomechanical models interpret the data in unique ways.”
Monaghan explains that each rower wears a tight Lycra suit containing 17 Xsens motion trackers that integrate the MEMS sensors. All the rowers need to do, she says, is provide their height and shoe size, and stand still for four seconds of calibration before starting their activity.
Analog Devices and Xsens say they foresee plenty of applications for 3-D motion data. Stroke patients, for example, can use it to relearn how to walk, says Erik Wilbrink, Xsens vice president of sales and marketing, who notes that the entertainment industry is also using the system. “Our full-body motion-capture suit is widely used for computer-generated imagery development in video games and movies,” he says, adding that a Grammy-nominated DJ has used the technology to animate robots on large screens during live stage performances.