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Calibration-free gait assessment by foot-worn inertial sensors

Laidig, Daniel; Jocham, Andreas J.; Guggenberger, Bernhard; Adamer, Klemens; Fischer, Michael; Seel, Thomas

Walking is a central activity of daily life, and there is an increasing demand for objective measurement-based gait assessment. In contrast to stationary systems, wearable inertial measurement units (IMUs) have the potential to enable non-restrictive and accurate gait assessment in daily life. We propose a set of algorithms that uses the measurements of two foot-worn IMUs to determine major spatiotemporal gait parameters that are essential for clinical gait assessment: durations of five gait phases for each side as well as stride length, walking speed, and cadence. Compared to many existing methods, the proposed algorithms neither require magnetometers nor a precise mounting of the sensor or dedicated calibration movements. They are therefore suitable for unsupervised use by non-experts in indoor as well as outdoor environments. While previously proposed methods are rarely validated in pathological gait, we evaluate the accuracy of the proposed algorithms on a very broad dataset consisting of 215 trials and three different subject groups walking on a treadmill: healthy subjects (n = 39), walking at three different speeds, as well as orthopedic (n = 62) and neurological (n = 36) patients, walking at a self-selected speed. The results show a very strong correlation of all gait parameters (Pearson's r between 0.83 and 0.99, p < 0.01) between the IMU system and the reference system. The mean absolute difference (MAD) is 1.4 % for the gait phase durations, 1.7 cm for the stride length, 0.04 km/h for the walking speed, and 0.7 steps/min for the cadence. We show that the proposed methods achieve high accuracy not only for a large range of walking speeds but also in pathological gait as it occurs in orthopedic and neurological diseases. In contrast to all previous research, we present calibration-free methods for the estimation of gait phases and spatiotemporal parameters and validate them in a large number of patients with different pathologies. The proposed methods lay the foundation for ubiquitous unsupervised gait assessment in daily-life environments.
Published in: Frontiers in Digital Health, 10.3389/fdgth.2021.736418, Frontiers