Professor Jeffrey Cheung of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) Department of Physics and his team have invented a portable device to record and analyse the biomechanical data of a person’s physical activity, in particular, walking (ie gait). It assesses the gait quality, identifies problems, and determines the efficacy of therapeutic measures such shoes, insoles and other corrective footwear. By applying similar principles, the team also invented a portable balance scale to measure the balance index of a person for health monitoring and fall risk assessment. The team has submitted worldwide patent applications for its inventions, which clinched multiple top prizes at the 45th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in April 2017.
The World Health Organisation lists walking as “the best exercise”. However, even with this simple activity, there can be issues. An improper walking stance may not only look awkward but also result in discomfort that will lead to long term injury. In order to address these potential problems, Professor Jeffrey Cheung and his team developed the “Portable Gait Analyser”. This new method places a single sensor behind a person’s waist to measure the movement along all three directions in just a few steps.
Professor Cheung said, “Every step a person takes is in fact a combination of oscillatory movement in three directions: upward-downward (vertical), forward-backward (horizontal) and sideways (lateral). With patent pending analytics algorithm, we can extract information such as cadence, posture, foot arch, coordination, knee bending, tremor, dynamic explosiveness, response time, foot dragging found in the elderly and many other kinetic parameters associated with walking in unprecedented details. This approach can replace the traditional methods based on force plates and sequential imaging technology. It can assess gait quality, impairment, footwear comfort and efficacy and other information in a matter of few minutes. The approach is simple, versatile, non-invasive yet with a high level of performance thus appealing to a wide market from clinical professionals to general consumers.
In addition to clinical applications, he added, “The detailed biomechanics and energy flow in every step, the information can be used to identify the performance potential of athletes and design tailor-made training methods.”
A second invention is the “Portable Balance Scale” to assess the balance index by measuring a person’s balance ability so as to reduce the risk of falling. The measurement process is as simple as standing on a scale for around 10 seconds. By analysing a person’s body movement amplitude when he/she tries to maintain balance on an unstable platform, the specific index value can be measured. The portable balance scale offers a superior cost and size advantage over similar products in the market. The scale can be further advanced to incorporate other functions such as measuring weight, physical training, and recreation platform for interactive games. The simplicity, low cost and multiple functionalities make it suitable for the consumer market.
The two HKBU inventions clinched four top prizes at the 45th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in April 2017. The “portable gait analyser” won the Gold Medal with Distinction in the Sport Category, and the Prize of the Romanian Association of Nonconventional Technologies (Special Medal). The “portable balance scale” won the Gold Medal in the Sport Category and the Prize of the Romanian Association of Nonconventional Technologies (Special Medal).