Soldiers, athletes, and Russian cosmonauts coming in for a landing can experience impacts to the skull capable of causing serious damage, but also concussions that are not immediately apparent. Engineers at Georgia Tech are using radar to analyze people’s walking gaits in order to identify possible brain concussions outside of laboratory conditions, such as the sidelines. Though camera based gait analysis software already exists, the researchers believe using radar gives them more flexibility because the subject does not have to be tagged with visual markers to identify body parts.
From the press release:
During the trials, each individual performed four 30-second walking tasks: a normal walk, walk while saying the months of the year in reverse order, walk while wearing the goggles, and walk while wearing the goggles and performing the cognitive task. For each task, the subjects walked away from the radar system, turned around and walked back toward the radar system.
“We’re using a 10.5 gigahertz continuous wave radar, which is similar to a police officer’s radar gun that measures the speed of a car,” explained [Kristin] Bing. “The data we collect tells us the velocity of everything that’s in the field of view of the radar at that time, including a person’s foot kicks, and head and torso movements.”
The researchers analyzed the radar data using information-theoretic techniques, which detected similarities and differences in the information without having to identify and align specific body parts. In addition, these techniques could recognize a gait anomaly without requiring that an individual’s normal gait be measured before the person became impaired.
“By looking for differences in the gait patterns of normal and impaired individuals, we found that healthy individuals could be distinguished from impaired individuals wearing the goggles,” explained [Jennifer] Palmer. “Healthy individuals demonstrated a more periodic gait with regular and higher velocity foot kicks and faster torso and head movement than impaired individuals when completing a cognitive task.”
Press release: Multitasking Challenge: Radar Analysis of Walking Patterns Shows Promise for Detecting Concussions in Athletes and Soldiers