Validation of inertial measurement units with an optoelectronic system for whole-body motion analysis


The potential of inertial measurement units (IMUs) for ergonomics applications appears promising. However, previous IMUs validation studies have been incomplete regarding aspects of joints analysed, complexity of movements and duration of trials. The objective was to determine the technological error and biomechanical model differences between IMUs and an optoelectronic system and evaluate the effect of task complexity and duration. Whole-body kinematics from 12 participants was recorded simultaneously with a full-body Xsens system where an Optotrak cluster was fixed on every IMU. Short functional movements and long manual material handling tasks were performed and joint angles were compared between the two systems. The differences attributed to the biomechanical model showed significantly greater (P ≤ .001) RMSE than the technological error. RMSE was systematically higher (P ≤ .001) for the long complex task with a mean on all joints of 2.8° compared to 1.2° during short functional movements. Definition of local coordinate systems based on anatomical landmarks or single posture was the most influent difference between the two systems. Additionally, IMUs accuracy was affected by the complexity and duration of the tasks. Nevertheless, technological error remained under 5° RMSE during handling tasks, which shows potential to track workers during their daily labour.

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The authors are grateful to the IRSST for financial support of the study through grant (2012-0040) and postdoctoral scholarship program and wish to recognise the technical assistance from Sophie Bellefeuille.

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Correspondence to Xavier Robert-Lachaine.

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Robert-Lachaine, X., Mecheri, H., Larue, C. et al. Validation of inertial measurement units with an optoelectronic system for whole-body motion analysis. Med Biol Eng Comput 55, 609–619 (2017).

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  • Inertial sensor
  • Validation
  • Task complexity
  • Evaluation
  • Performance