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STMicroelectronics to help demo wireless body motion tracking

Technology could help track the progress of stroke victims and control games

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Working with Xsens Technologies, STMicroelectronics will demonstrate the world's first wearable wireless 3D body motion-tracking system based on consumer-grade sensors next week.

Advanced motion capture using sensors is already used in a number of different professional applications, including film making. But the technology is now ready for the consumer market, according to Per Slycke, CTO and co-founder at Xsens.

Xsens and STMicroelectronics have put together a demo for the Electronica 2012 tradeshow, which takes place next week in Munich.

The demo will track body movements by attaching to a person 15 sensors of the same kind currently used in smartphones from STMicroelectronics, while Xsens supplies the firmware and software to make it work.

"The types of applications you can use this for are very broad; some we have in mind are sports, fitness health care and using your body as a gaming interface," said Slycke.

While Nintendo and Microsoft have popularised using body movements to control games, Xsens' software with STMicroelectronics' sensors can be used anywhere.

Beyond gaming, tracking body movements can also change the way neurological disorders like stroke are treated.

"Stroke affects the central nervous system, and that results in movement disorders, and they can be very subtle. But by evaluating the 3D motion data of a person you track progress or if someone becomes worse," said Slycke.

Some niche applications are expected to pick this up pretty quickly, because the basic technical building blocks are ready. For example, the low-energy feature in Bluetooth 4.0 will play an important role in helping set up a body area network, allowing sensors communicate with a smartphone, according to Slycke. Then it will take another year or two before it becomes more widely available, he said.

While the demo attaches the sensors using straps, future sensors could be integrated in, for example, watches, shoes and various types of smartphone accessories.

"I think this is a great opportunity for vendors who are looking to differentiate themselves in the handset market," said Slycke.



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