MANA 2.0 challenges gold-standard mat test for gait assessment

Researchers in Singapore have developed MANA 2.0, a new method of gait assessment claimed to be more economical than current gold-standard mat tests carried out in surgeries.

Gait analysis is used for medical diagnosis of sports injuries, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Cerebral Palsy, and for assessing frailty and fall risk of the elderly. To obtain accurate gait measurements, a gold-standard proprietary gait measuring mat is usually used in the clinics. The mat is aid to be large, heavy and expensive, and gait measurements using it can only be conducted in the clinic in the presence of a doctor.

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Now, researchers from the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a novel wireless sensor system capable of achieving clinical gait measurements with comparable accuracies to the current gold-standard mat. The MANA 2.0 wireless sensor system is made up of four sensors mounted onto the user’s footwear and can be linked to a mobile application where the measurements are taken.

Conventional wearables for gait analysis are based on an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that measures acceleration and rotation rate. MANA 2.0 combines both IMU and UWB (ultra-wideband) technologies in the sensor system. UWB technology enables direct measurement of on-body distances, which gives MANA 2.0 the ability to estimate clinical gait metrics that can currently only be measured using the gold-standard mat. These include step width and spatial foot placement which are key to evaluating a patient’s gait abnormality and risk of falling.

gold-standard mat
MANA2.0 captures raw data in real-time for gait analysis. The measurements, which include step width, as well as the acceleration and rotation in the left and right heel during movement, can then be streamed directly on the patient’s smartphone (Image: NUS)

Using a dataset of over 2,000 steps across 21 healthy individuals, the researchers observed that MANA 2.0 achieved an average of 97.2 per cent accuracy for step width measurements and between 95 and 97 per cent accuracy for spatial foot placement measurements when compared to the measurements made by the gold-standard mat.

“There is huge value in developing a portable version of the gait analysis mat as this will empower patients to make their own gait measurements anytime and anywhere without requiring the physical supervision of a clinician,” said Dr Boyd Anderson, a lecturer at NUS Computing’s Department of Computer Science, who worked on the development of MANA 2.0. “A MANA 2.0 enabled wearable for gait analysis will also allow clinicians to monitor the progress of their patients remotely through the data collected on the mobile application. With the growing demand for healthcare services, such a portable technology reduces the need for physical space and manpower in the clinics while making gait assessments more efficient at the same time.”

The NUS team has filed a patent for MANA 2.0, which took two years to develop. The system is estimated to cost under S$500 ($367) compared to the current gold-standard mat which typically costs over S$10,000 ($7347). The team is looking to collect more data to further validate the technology for clinical application.