Meghan Huber, an assistant professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, is a recipient of a Pilot Project Award from the Restore Center at Stanford University to fund her research on the development of a mobile motion-capture system. The project, “A mobile robot system capable of measuring human motion in real-world environments,” is a collaboration between Huber and Donghyun Kim, an assistant professor in the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences.
This project will enable a so-called “Mini-Cheetah” quadruped robot to autonomously measure whole body human kinematics during walking in real-world environments, which Huber and Kim say, “is an important step for enhancing the efficacy and accessibility of gait rehabilitation.”
The goal of gait rehabilitation is to improve walking after sustaining a neurological or musculoskeletal injury. During gait rehabilitation, walking ability is often assessed with tests conducted in a clinical setting. However, improvements in clinical scores do not always translate to improved walking function in real-life scenarios, where the environment is more complex and constantly changing.
“With measurements of human behavior during real-life activities,” Huber says, “clinicians can make more informed decisions on treatment based on factors such as the observance of undesirable compensatory behavior, changes in behavior due to disease progression or injury recovery, level of active engagement, and the use and efficacy of an assistive device.”
According to Kim, “Mobile robot systems, like the Mini-Cheetah, are well-suited to autonomously measure human motor behavior because they eliminate the need for a patient to put on additional sensors. Additionally, mobile robots can be programmed to autonomously follow a patient, without adding any extra cognitive load or effort on the patient.”
Huber and Kim are core faculty members of the Robotics Cluster of Excellence at UMass Amherst, which provides a unique collaborative research environment to nurture future robotics engineers with innovative ideas, broad and systematic perspectives, and a collaborative research approach. Within the Robotics Cluster of Excellence, Huber directs the Human Robot Systems Lab (HRSL), and Kim directs the Dynamic and Autonomous Robotic Systems (DARoS) Laboratory.
The Stanford Restore Center’s mission is to launch a world-wide collaboration involving hundreds of research teams to collect, share, and analyze real-world data on rehabilitation outcomes for those with movement impairments. (November 2022)