Smart shoe insole, smartphone app can correct walking problems

Tools

A University of Utah professor is developing a smartphone application that wirelessly tracks data from a smart shoe insole that could help correct walking problems for people with artificial legs, hip replacements and broken legs. Called the Rapid Rehab system, it utilizes a custom gel insole with force sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes to detect a person's gait, monitoring each footstep and providing continuous real-time feedback as they walk, according to an announcement.

Based on instantaneous visual, audio or sensory feedback from the Rapid Rehab system, patients who have received a hip replacement or suffered a bone fracture are able to correct their gait as they go through the healing process. Correcting how these patients walk is vital due to the fact that uneven steps, such as limping, can cause falls, osteoarthritis and other associated health problems.

The Rapid Rehab system can be customized to track most types of foot movement or pressure, using force-sensitive resistors and an inertial measurement unit that includes an accelerometer and gyroscope for measuring foot position and angle. As a result, it is more accurate than subjective observations by a physical therapist and gives users more feedback and control, which can lead to quicker results.

Early this year, a team of Japanese physical therapists found that that an Android smartphone, equipped with a gait analysis application, was just as accurate in quantifying gait parameters as a tri-axial accelerometer, according to a post on iMedicalApps.com. To perform gait-analysis in a laboratory setting can be expensive. However, the Rapid Rehab system is a cost-effective solution that can be used anywhere. Currently, the system is being developed and will be available in a few years to physical therapists and their patients for around $500.

"We are on the verge of having a major impact on the lives of amputees and others who struggle with gait abnormalities," said Stacy Bamberg, a University of Utah professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who is currently on sabbatical to develop the product through her startup company Veristride. "We will be working rapidly toward commercial production. All the essential pieces are already in place. We want our system to be used by every physical therapist in the country and across the world."

Veristride recently received a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant and a $40,000 Technology Commercialization and Innovation grant from the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development. Ten years ago, Bamberg began the research for this project as a doctoral student. Since then, she and her colleagues have written two scientific publications about instrumented insole systems.

For more information:
- read the announcement

Related Articles:
Startups eager to get mobile medical devices to market
New iPad app tracks mobility among seniors
AT&T banking on 'smart slippers' to kick off telehealth initiatives