Functional Rotation Axis Based Approach for Estimating Hip Joint Angles Using Wearable Inertial Sensors: Comparison to Existing Methods

Lukas Adamowicz, University of Vermont


Wearable sensors are at the heart of the digital health revolution. Integral to the use of these sensors for monitoring conditions impacting balance and mobility are accurate estimates of joint angles. To this end a simple and novel method of estimating hip joint angles from small wearable magnetic and inertial sensors is proposed and its performance is established relative to optical motion capture in a sample of human subjects. Improving upon previous work, this approach does not require precise sensor placement or specific calibration motions, thereby easing deployment outside of the research laboratory. Specific innovations include the determination of sensor to segment rotations based on functionally determined joint centers, and the development of a novel filtering algorithm for estimating the relative orientation of adjacent body segments. Hip joint angles and range of motion determined from the proposed approach and an existing method are compared to those from an optical motion capture system during walking at a variety of speeds and tasks designed to exercise the hip through its full range of motion. Results show that the proposed approach estimates flexion/extension angle more accurately (RMSE from 7.08 to 7.29 deg) than the existing method (RMSE from 11.64 deg to 14.33 deg), with similar performance for the other anatomical axes. Agreement of each method with optical motion capture is further characterized by considering correlation and regression analyses. Mean ranges of motion for the proposed method are not largely different from those reported by motion capture, and showed similar values to the existing method. Results indicate that this algorithm provides a promising approach for estimating hip joint angles using wearable inertial sensors, and would allow for use outside of constrained research laboratories.