Assessing interventions for mobility disorders using real-life movement remains an unsolved problem. We propose a new method combining the strengths of traditional laboratory studies where environment is strictly controlled, and field-based studies where subjects behave naturally. We use a foot-mounted inertial sensor, a GPS receiver and a barometric altitude sensor to reconstruct a subject’s path and detailed foot movement, both indoors and outdoors, during days-long measurement using strapdown navigation and sensor fusion algorithms. We cluster repeated movement paths based on location, and propose that on these paths, most environmental and behavioral factors (e.g., terrain and motivation) are as repeatable as in a laboratory. During each bout of movement along a frequently repeated path, any synchronized measurement can be isolated for study, enabling focused statistical comparison of different interventions. We conducted a 10-day test on one subject wearing athletic shoes and sandals each for five days. The algorithm detected four frequently-repeated straight walking paths with at least 300 total steps and repetitions on at least three days for each condition. Results on these frequently-repeated paths indicated significantly lower foot clearance and shorter stride length and a trend toward decreased stride width when wearing athletic shoes vs. sandals. Comparisons based on all straight walking were similar, showing greater statistical power, but higher variability in the data. The proposed method offers a new way to evaluate how mobility interventions affect everyday movement behavior.
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