Human biomechanics involves studying the reaction of the human body under various forces and stimuli. Biomechanics experts investigate how the musculoskeletal system works under different conditions and how it interacts with the environment. The resulting data are used to discover the biophysical capabilities and limits of the human body, and have a variety of applications in numerous fields, from sports science and ergonomics, to evaluation of gait, injury rehabilitation, and performing arts.
Technologies and equipment precise enough to deliver high-fidelity data that facilitate understanding of human movement have historically been tethered in high-performance laboratories, limiting the biomechanics expert’s data set. Measurements in the field, or in a subject’s most natural environment, deliver the highest data integrity, but can be difficult to achieve without portability. Noraxon has developed an integrated biomechanics research ecosystem, the myoMETRICS Portable Lab, which can be easily transported and deployed in nearly any natural environment. The product was recently announced at the Medica 2016 trade fair in Germany
Medgadget had the opportunity to ask Brent Perkins (President) and Coleman Bessert (Director of Biomechanics) some questions about Noraxon’s newly released myoMETRICS Portable Lab.
Conn Hastings, Medgadget: How does the system differ from conventional equipment for recording and analyzing human movement?
Brent Perkins, Noraxon: In reality, it doesn’t. Noraxon has a 25-year track record of developing high-fidelity devices used in biomechanics research. The Portable Lab operates on a highly efficient software platform, which integrates a series of assessment modules, automatically synchronizing all data recording and processing. This seamless integration of data can dramatically reduce the time it takes for researchers to obtain meaningful answers to critical biomechanics-related questions.
Coleman Bessert, Noraxon: The reason we think this is such an innovative solution is that our Portable Lab incorporates the same Noraxon myoMETRICS system and technology installed in our customers’ biomechanics labs all over the world. However, this system is wireless, offering researchers unrestricted portability, yet it still delivers the high-fidelity data realized by a traditional biomechanics lab.
Medgadget: Can you give us a brief overview as to what is included in the box and how it works?
Brent Perkins: Our engineers combined all of our independent hardware systems into one solution, allowing researchers and sports scientists the ability to take their traditional lab anywhere and capture human movement, unrestricted, in its most natural environment. With the research community’s needs in mind, Noraxon designed the ecosystem to aid in the many situations and environments that exist, such as athlete assessments on the field, gait analysis in the physical therapy clinic, biofeedback for neuro-rehab patients or even objective concussion testing.
Coleman Bessert: The Portable Lab includes a number of innovative features, including a full suite of biomechanical 3D motion capture sensors that wirelessly transmit data in real time using our patented amplifier technology to guarantee the highest-fidelity signal. The sensors can also record all data to on-board memory, which guarantees zero loss of data.
The Portable Lab is also outfitted with our high-speed, high-definition NiNOX camera system, specifically designed for human movement analysis and motion tracking. The camera and LED light combo is USB-powered and operates at up to 250 frames per second.
Our mission is to provide researchers with access to high-quality data, anywhere, at any time. The Portable Lab fully achieves this goal for the first time in the history of biomechanics.
Medgadget: What parameters can be measured by the system?
Coleman Bessert: Electromyography (EMG), 3D motion capture, force, pressure and other physiological processes (such as accelerometers and sensors to measure heart and breathing rate, heart rate variability, etc.), as well as video analysis. The modular nature of the system allows for researchers to start collecting data incrementally. As a researcher’s needs change, the modular architecture of the Portable Lab and integrated software platform means he or she can easily plug in additional biomechanics modules and sensors.
Medgadget: Was the miniaturization process a challenge? How long has it taken to develop the system?
Brent Perkins: We leveraged existing technology to develop the Portable Lab, but making this type of system truly portable definitely faced some challenges. While the miniaturization process had been in R&D for more than five years, the real hurdle was integration and synchronization within a small portable form factor.
Medgadget: Is it important that researchers collect data in the field, as opposed to inviting participants to a dedicated biomechanics laboratory?
Brent Perkins: Yes. Some things you just can’t measure in a dedicated laboratory—you need to go where the action is. Take the example of a concert violinist. If she were to come to a biomechanics lab and try to replicate her performance, many aspects would be different. First, she would be playing in a small lab, where the air smells different, the lighting is different and the chair is different from how they would be onstage in a concert auditorium. And because there is no audience, she receives no feedback that might influence her from a physiological standpoint. Bringing data collection to the violinist in her natural environment is important because it captures the essence of the real-life performance and increases the integrity and usability of the resulting data.
With the Portable Lab, researchers can now gain unprecedented insight into which specific environmental factors affect subjects physiologically, and how that translates into the way they move. It is our job, as a company, to enable biomechanics experts to quantify these performances so that practitioners can understand, analyze and improve their methods and help improve that performance, whatever it may be.
Coleman Bessert: This is a way to deliver the most natural movement patterns to the research community. Previously, when studies or data collection were performed in a lab setting, researchers would see “best behavior(s),” a subject’s natural reaction(s) to the data collection. However, it is that effort to obtain data of the highest integrity—and limit results that feature “best behavior”—for which the Portable Lab was developed.
In competition or performances, the subject’s only goal is to complete the task, whatever it may be (outmaneuvering the defender; keeping perfect pitch and tone; or, as a neurological rehab patient, walking over uneven surfaces). Noraxon believes each of these goals is the definition of “performance” for that individual, as each person is unique in that regard.
Medgadget: Can the system be used outdoors in challenging terrains or adverse weather conditions?
Brent Perkins: Terrain is not an issue at all. In fact, the Portable Lab is already being used for extended intervals such as in marathons and cycling, as well as in arduous landscapes such as downhill skiing, trail running and rock climbing.
Coleman Bessert: With regard to moisture, heavy rain or snow, there are some operational challenges; however, we do not foresee this being a long-term constraint. Our engineers are working hard on all facets of water resistance and system ruggedization.
Product page: myoMETRICS Portable Lab