Proof of concept seems proved

A project log for Human Limb Tracking

A system that tracks limb movement of people who have movement disorders to assist in diagnosis and therapy

Jonathan KellyJonathan Kelly 09/19/2016 at 07:250 Comments

I have built several of the nodes, progressively making them smaller (as I get better at making and assembling the PCBs). At this point (based on how they behave) I think this architecture (using the SAMR21s and MPU9250 IMU devices connected via a 6lowPAN network) will work and is worth pursuing.

Power consumption seems reasonably low - unfortunately a little bit too much for a 3v button battery though. :(

Here are 2 of the most recent nodes showing their size. It is a bit hard to see but the UI is displaying both nodes moving in unison as I twist my hand about.

and here is a quick attempt to hook them up to my arm using some velco straps just because I am impatient and wanted to see them doing something that will be closer to their end purpose.

Basically they seem to work but now I need to look at making something more practical and closer to a usable product.

Next issues to address:

1. size and shape. The current nodes are still physically larger than I want and are awkwardly shaped making them hard to attach to the body. They also are a bit heavier than I think is appropriate. A lot of this is because of the AAA battery each node carries and the MPU9250 breakout board size.

I am looking at moving to a flat LiPo battery that should result in a thinner, sleeker and smaller design.

I also want to move away from the MPU9250 breakout board to mounting a MPU9250 directly on my carrier board as this will also save space. Unfortunately due to the pin spacing on the MPU9250 I will need to create a PC board with finer resolution than I currently can achieve (my 600 DPI laser printer cannot print the pads on my transparency without them running into each other :( ). This bit not yet urgent as I think changing away from the AAA battery and making a suitable mounting system is higher priority to get working first.

2. Mounting the nodes on the body. I need to have a simple and easily attached way of attaching the nodes to various parts of the body.

3. User interface. Currently my user interface is aimed at testing the nodes functionality, rather than being something that would be capable of being used to actually record and analyse body movements. This will need some thought and specification (although the UI I made for the earlier implementation of the project had much of the functionality I think I need to implement in the new system so can be used as a model for what I need).

4. Edge router. Currently this involves booting up a SAMR21-ZLLK development board, hooked up to a FDTI/USB cable and running a SLIP network interface to give me connectivity between the node network and the 'real world' network. Ideally I would like something like a USB dongle that plugs into a PC and starts up or a small standalone wireless device that just needs to be turned on.

5. Live testing of tracking, recording and analysing actual limb movements.

Other Issues

I need to look at is static discharge protection. Because the nodes are worn on the body and the person may be wearing clothes that may generate high static charges I am concerned the nodes may be vulnerable to damage from ESD. (I think I killed 2 of the atsamr21b18-mz210pa modules last week while I was wearing a synthetic jumper that I know builds up a bit of charge. I got a small spark between my hand and desk lamp not long after 2 of the nodes stopped working - a cold dry windy day as well so I believe it was ESD that killed them). Designing to protect from ESD is not something I have any experience with so I will need to research it.

Tidying up the software. Currently the software development has been directed by experimentation rather than specification. I want to spec out the various APIs, communication protocols and software functionality. This should make it more robust, scalable and maintainable. It will involve specifying node to node messaging, node to edge router communication, the web service API and the UI functionality. Up until now I have just added bits as I needed them but there is a great lack of consistency and also I think I can streamline and reduce the actual size of data being shuffled around the system that should speed things up.