I am mechanical engineer with very little knowledge of electrical engineering. I am working on a project where I need two have two sensors, one on each shoe to track the motion of the feet, and a third sensor on the wrist of a human. The goal is to measure the footwork and movement of arms. As certain times I want to know the relative position of the wrist to the two shoes (feet). What sensors and system should I use and how can I get the relative position of each sensor to the other two?


closed as too broad by PeterJ, Daniel Grillo, Matt Young, Keelan, Olin Lathrop Oct 15 '14 at 12:37

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You appear to have half invented your solution with three sensors. Can you take a step back and define the question in terms of what you are trying to achieve? \$\endgroup\$ – David Oct 13 '14 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds hard. GPS? If you just wanted to see changes in motion maybe a 3-D accelerometer in each shoe. \$\endgroup\$ – George Herold Oct 13 '14 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ What's your budget? \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Oct 13 '14 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, what update rate do you need and how big an area do you need to cover? I agree with @David -- It's on you to explain what you need. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Oct 13 '14 at 15:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ External motion capture with a camera is the normal way of doing this. \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Oct 13 '14 at 15:06

This is not a trivial problem. Depending on what exactly your ultimate goal is and the resources at your disposal, there could be a number of different approaches.

IMUs (inertial measurement units) - sensor units with accelerators, gyroscopes, and sometimes magnetometers - will not be enough to accurately determine relative positions of wrist and shoes. They will give you a lot of information about motion but if you try to infer position from that information, the error will add up and you will get inevitable drift.

Normal GPS is not a good idea for something this small scale (as suggested in a question comment) since it just won't be accurate enough. Differential GPS is slightly better there but might be completely unsuitable for your application and you might find it isn't worth it. Similarly, most RF approaches will heavily fluctuate in accuracy simply based on how a person is standing or where there are walls. Those are all long range solutions.

Again, depending on your application (indoors? outdoors? large area?), your best bet is probably a computer vision approach. There's motion capture where you attach markers to the parts you want to track and put cameras at as many angles as possible such that as many as possible always have an a view that is not occluded of these markers. With those video streams and some maths, you can very accurately track the positions of the markers. This is done in the film industry for example to get motion data for CGI.

Otherwise you could always grab a Kinect and make do with the data that that gives you (which may still be better than attaching IMUs) and maybe even fuse that data with a different tracking method.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is to be used outdoors for sports, so no indoors environment and no walls. The basic idea is to know the geometry of wrist and two shoes (triangle). For example when the wrist moves up I need to know the relative position of the wrist to the each of the legs. There can be a maximum error of a couple of cms and horizontal relative position is more important than vertical relative position. It should not be very expensive. I hope this helped clarify some of the questions and comments you were asking. \$\endgroup\$ – Nikolaos Beratlis Oct 14 '14 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure if "sensors" are the right devices, but motion capture is out of the questions. This should be a self-sustained device, not relying on outside elements. \$\endgroup\$ – Nikolaos Beratlis Oct 14 '14 at 4:38

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