This study investigates the possibility of estimating lower-limb joint kinematics and meaningful performance indexes for physiotherapists, during gait on a treadmill based on data collected from a sparse placement of new Visual Inertial Measurement Units (VIMU) and the use of an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF). The proposed EKF takes advantage of the biomechanics of the human body and of the investigated task to reduce sensor inaccuracies. Two state-vector formulations, one based on the use of constant acceleration model and one based on Fourier series, and the tuning of their corresponding parameters were analyzed. The constant acceleration model, due to its inherent inconsistency for human motion, required a cumbersome optimisation process and needed the a-priori knowledge of reference joint trajectories for EKF parameters tuning. On the other hand, the Fourier series formulation could be used without a specific parameters tuning process. In both cases, the average root mean square difference and correlation coefficient between the estimated joint angles and those reconstructed with a reference stereophotogrammetric system was 3.5deg and 0.70, respectively. Moreover, the stride lengths were estimated with a normalized root mean square difference inferior to 2% when using the forward kinematics model receiving as input the estimated joint angles. The popular gait deviation index was also estimated and showed similar results very close to 100, using both the proposed method and the reference stereophotogrammetric system. Such consistency was obtained using only three wireless and affordable VIMU located at the pelvis and both heels and tracked using two affordable RGB cameras. Being further easy-to-use and suitable for applications taking place outside of the laboratory, the proposed method thus represents a good compromise between accurate reference stereophotogrammetric systems and markerless ones for which accuracy is still under debate.
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