People who have received an artificial leg, had a hip replacement, or who are recovering from a broken leg all want to avoid one thing – developing a limp. Not only will it limit their mobility and increase the risk of falls, but it can also lead to problems such as osteoarthritis. That’s why University of Utah mechanical engineer Prof. Stacy Bamberg is developing the Rapid Rehab system – it’s a “smart” insole paired to a smartphone app, designed to provide users with feedback on how they walk.

The gel insole incorporates two force-sensitive resistors, that measure pressure when the patient’s foot is on the ground. It also contains an accelerometer for detecting leg movement, and a gyroscope for determining the angle and position of the foot.

Data from all of those sensors is wirelessly transmitted to a smartphone, that uses a custom app to create a real-time profile of the patient’s gait. It will note any problems with their walking pattern, then advise them (or a clinician) via their choice of instantaneous visual, audio or sensory feedback.

Prof. Stacy Bamberg with a Rapid Rehab prototype

According to the university, Rapid Rehab has some advantages over alternative forms of gait analysis. It can be used anywhere at any time, for instance, unlike a laboratory analysis. It also reportedly provides more objective feedback than can be obtained from a physical therapist, and allows patients to monitor themselves.

Bamberg is currently on sabbatical to commercially develop the system, via University of Utah spin-off company Veristride. She hopes to have a finished product ready to go within a few years, and estimates that it will sell for around US$500.

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