Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing

, Volume 57, Issue 11, pp 2449–2460 | Cite as

IMU-based sensor-to-segment multiple calibration for upper limb joint angle measurement—a proof of concept

  • Mahdi Zabat
  • Amina AbabouEmail author
  • Noureddine Ababou
  • Raphaël Dumas
Original Article


A lot of attention has been paid to wearable inertial sensors regarded as an alternative solution for outdoor human motion tracking. Relevant joint angles can only be calculated from anatomical orientations, but they are negatively impacted by soft tissue artifact (STA) defined as skin motion with respect to the underlying bone; the accuracy of measured joint angle during movement is affected by the ongoing misalignment of the sensor. In this work, a new sensor-to-segment calibration using inertial measurement units is proposed. Inspired by the multiple calibration for a cluster of skin markers, it consists in performing first multiple static postures of the upper limb in all anatomical planes. The movements that affect sensor alignment are identified then alignment differences between sensors and segment frames are calculated for each posture and linearly interpolated. Experimental measurements were carried out on a mechanical model and on a subject who performed different movements of right elbow and shoulder. Multiple calibration showed significant improvement in joint angle measurement on the mechanical model as well as on human joint angle comparing to those obtained from attached sensors after technical calibration. During shoulder internal-external rotation, the maximal error value decreased more than 50% after correction.

Graphical abstract

Elbow flexion-extension joint angle values obtained from IMUs are well-corrected after applying multiple calibration procedure. Though shoulder internal-external rotation joint angle is more affected by soft tissue artifact, multiple calibration procedure improves the angle values obtained from IMUs.


Joint angle IMU measurement Posture Calibration Soft tissue artifact 


\( {p}_i^0 \)

Segment i orientation at neutral posture 0

\( {q}_i^0 \)

Sensor i frame orientation at neutral posture 0

\( {\overset{\sim }{q}}_1^0 \)

Rotation of IMU1 at posture 0 to align with gravity

\( {p}_i^j \)

Segment i orientation at posture j

\( {q}_i^j \)

Sensor i orientation at posture j

\( \tilde{p}_{i}^j \)

90° rotation about a given axis of the segment i at posture j

\( \tilde{q}_{i}^j \)

Alignment difference between \( {q}_i^j \) and \( {p}_i^j \)

\( {\overline {\overset{\sim }{q}}}_i^{\mathbf{u},\alpha } \)

Mean value of all alignment differences \( \tilde{q}_{i}^j\kern0.24em \) calculated for each segment i at all postures j resulting either from the rotation of the joint angle α = 0° or 90° about the axis u and presenting the same segment frame orientation

\( {\overline {\overset{\sim }{q}}}_i^{\mathbf{u},}\left(\theta \right) \)

Alignment correction during movement and obtained by linear interpolation

\( {\overline {\overset{\sim }{q}}}_i^{\mathbf{u},},\mathbf{v}\left({\theta}_1,{\theta}_2\right) \)

Alignment correction during movement and obtained by bilinear interpolation


Corrected segment frame orientation


Supplementary material

11517_2019_2033_MOESM1_ESM.doc (74 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 74.5 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of InstrumentationUniversity of Science and Technology Houari BoumedieneBab Ezzouar AlgiersAlgeria
  2. 2.IFSTTAR, LBMC UMR_T9406Univ Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1VilleurbanneFrance

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