Tippy Tappy Toes portable gait analysis device earns former NAIT team provincial honour
16, Aug, 2023
EDMONTON, Aug. 16, 2023 – Tippy Tappy Toes (T3), a portable, wireless, low-cost solution to gait analysis that may be used in any environment has earned a former team of NAIT biomedical engineering technology students a place as a provincial finalist for the Capstone Project of the Year Award, which is presented annually by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET).
T3 studies the rotation of the foot throughout a patient’s walking cycle, enabling researchers and clinicians to identify gait abnormalities, such as those associated with spinal cord damage. It allows them to quantify and track progress of the patient’s treatments in order to evaluate restoration of a functional walking pattern.
Many current methods of gait analysis include fixed cameras and motion tracking, but do not provide significant information about the patient’s foot rotation and orientation over time. These types of systems are also expensive and require a dedicated space to house them.
Created by former NAIT students Frank Gauthier, McKenna Bentley and Megan Bauer, T3 features a wireless transmitter that is strapped to the ankle, two pressure sensors that slide under the sole of the patient’s shoe, and an accelerometer that attaches to the laces of the shoe. It collects real-time foot angle data as well as heel and toe touch-down and lift-off data and wirelessly transmits it to a workstation. There, the data is visually conveyed through a Unity 3D game engine, which is cross-platform and can support a variety of desktop, mobile, console, and virtual reality platforms.
The game engine manipulates a 3D model of the shoe to mimic the rotation of the patient’s foot. The camera view around the model can zoom in and out, rotate and record playback with the ability to slow down playback of the walking session. It can also provide visual indications that the toe and heel are touching the ground.
The inspiration for T3 arose during Gauthier’s summer job in a lab that was researching and analyzing patient improvements after treatments for spinal cord damage.
“Though T3 was originally intended to assist in a rehabilitation environment, it also has the potential to be applied to the area of sports medicine or even used as a controller to incorporate foot motion in virtual reality games,” said Gauthier. “It’s a cost-effective and easy-to-use method of analyzing a patient’s walking pattern with almost any shoe type.”
“These former NAIT students really stepped up with their development of a highly portable approach to gait analysis,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “Kudos to them for putting their best foot forward with this project and, in so doing, putting the public good first.”
The former NAIT team’s project is one of nine finalists for the 2023 ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award. The winning project will be announced at the end of October.
The Capstone Project of the Year Award was established by ASET in 2017 in response to overwhelming member interest in stories about Capstone Projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students from NAIT, SAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic, and Lethbridge College as part of their end-of-program requirements.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 17,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET