Stacy Bamberg, ScD, an assistant professor in the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Department of Mechanical Engineering, is developing a shoe insole, the Rapid Rehab system, that is designed to help correct difficulty walking in people with prosthetic legs, hip replacements, and broken legs. The immediate use for this technology will be to reduce limping caused by prosthetic leg usage, and the associated likelihood of falls, osteoarthritis, and other health problems.
The Rapid Rehab system uses a custom gel insole with force sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscopes to detect a person’s gait and provides continuous, instantaneous feedback through its software. Bamberg and her colleagues created a smartphone application that wirelessly tracks the data from the insole and provides a choice of visual, audio, or sensory feedback.
The current prototype has two force-sensitive resistors for tracking pressure when the foot is on the ground and an inertial measurement unit, which includes an accelerometer and gyroscope for measuring foot position and angle. The device can be customized to track most types of foot movement or pressure.
The cited benefits of the Rapid Rehab are its low cost, its ability for use in any real-world setting, and it is more accurate than subjective observations by a physical therapist. It also gives users more feedback and control, which can result in quicker results.
“We are on the verge of having a major impact on the lives of amputees and others who struggle with gait abnormalities,” said Bamberg. “We will be working rapidly toward commercial production….”