Wrong postures in the workplace can result in pain in the back, knees, or shoulders. A new sensor system designed by scientists from TU Kaiserslautern and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) might be of great help to overcome this problem.
Sensors on the back, legs, and arms, for instance, have the ability to detect movement sequences and software assesses the obtained data. The system offers the user with direct feedback through a Smartwatch so that the user can correct posture or movement.
The sensors can be fitted in shoes and working clothes. The scientists will be presenting this technology at the medical technology trade fair Medica at the Rhineland-Palatinate research stand (hall 3, stand E80) that will be conducted from 15th to 18th November 2021.
Arranging the components in a bent posture, routinely putting away heavy crates on shelves, or rapidly writing an e-mail to a colleague on the computer—during work, a majority of the people do not mind a gentle sequence of movements or ergonomically sensible posture. This can lead to back pain that may recur many times in a month or week and transform into chronic pain with time. But faulty posture can also result in permanent pain in the knees, neck, or hips.
At present, a new technology developed by a research group at DFKI and Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK) can offer a remedy in the future. Sensors are just fixed to various parts of the body like legs, spine, and arms.
Among other things, they measure accelerations and so-called angular velocities. The data obtained is then processed by our software.
Markus Miezal, WearHEALTH Working Group, Technische Universitat Kaiserlautern
Thus, the software estimates motion parameters like joint angles at the knee and arm or the degree of flexion or twisting of the spine.
The technology immediately recognizes if a movement is performed incorrectly or if an incorrect posture is adopted.
Mathias Musahl, Augmented Vision/Extended Reality Research Unit, German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence
Musahl is Miezal’s colleague. The Smartwatch has been developed in such a way to notify the user directly to correct his/her posture or movement. Besides other things, the scientists plan to install the sensors in shoes and work clothing. This technology seems to be fascinating, for instance, for companies in the industry. However, it can also help to pay more attention to one’s body in daily office life at a desk.
This study comes under the BIONIC project, which is financially supported by the European Union. BIONIC refers to “Personalized Body Sensor Networks with Built-In Intelligence for Real-Time Risk Assessment and Coaching of Ageing workers, in all types of working and living environments.”
The project has been coordinated by Professor Didier Stricker, head of the Augmented Vision/Extended Reality research area at DFKI. The goal is to create a sensor system with which wrong posture and other stresses at the workplace could be decreased.
Besides the DFKI and the TUK, the following are a part of the project: the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in Dortmund, the Spanish Instituto de Biomechanica de Valencia, the Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, also in Spain, the Roessingh Research and Development Center at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, the Systems Security Lab at the Greek University of Piraeus, Interactive Wear GmbH in Munich, Hypercliq IKE in Greece, ACCIONA Construcción S.A. in Spain, and also Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG in Friedrichshafen.