Non-stop research

The GRAIL enables realistic research approaches thanks to three-dimensional gait analysis. The planned studies are in demand in the logistics industry.

08.07.2020 · Life Sciences · Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors · News · Projects

The IfADo research is on the move: with a Gait Real-Time Analysis Interactive Lab (GRAIL). In it, the gait movement of the entire body can be analyzed in three dimensions in a virtual environment. The laboratory enables researchers to analyze phenomena of human information processing while moving. “The GRAIL allows us new and realistic research approaches“, says Prof. Dr. Gerhard Rinkenauer.

A major goal of GRAIL at IfADo is to investigate how many cognitive resources walking requires. „This question is relevant for work research in so far as we interact more and more frequently with digital devices when walking, which also require cognitive resources,“ explains Prof. Dr. Gerhard Rinkenauer, head of the research area Designing Work and Cognitive Ergonomics at IfADo. While using data glasses, for example, errors can occur when reading and processing information. In the worst case, walking can lead to coordination errors or even falls. In order to be able to systematically investigate such phenomena, the GRAIL researcher additionally analyze brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG).

Applied work research in the context of logistics

The planned studies are in demand in the logistics industry, for example. Here, a number of digital assistance systems (auditory headset, data glasses, glasses for augmented reality) are already in use. Many questions relating to such assistance systems can be researched in the GRAIL: Where are the risks of accidents, work errors or inefficiency? Can data glasses support work or are they more likely to interfere? To what extent can gait analysis be used to determine the degree of physical or mental fatigue? At present, IfADo determines together with the Dortmund Fraunhofer Institutes IML and ISST the extent to which digital assistance systems influence gait behavior.

Technical Data: Research on the treadmill

GRAIL uses various devices for 3D motion analysis. The heart of the system is the dual treadmill, in which the speed of the belts can be controlled separately for each leg to influence the difficulty of gait. In addition, the treadmill can be tilted forward or backward and it can be accelerated sideways to disturb the balance. The treadmill is positioned inside a 180-degree curved screen five meters wide and three meters high, onto which a virtual environment is projected. Up to 48 motion markers are attached to the body of the test person in advance. These are recorded by ten infrared cameras so that the entire body movement of the test person can be analyzed in three-dimensional space with the help of software. Using force plates in the treadmill, it is also possible to analyze how strongly the person moves. In order to prevent the person from being injured, he or she is secured with a belt on an appropriate device. This allows the person to move freely, but in the event of a fall, the person is caught. A small insight into the new system can be found here:

The costs for the new laboratory, including construction and training of the employees, amount to 450,000 €. The financing will be covered by the special funding of the IfADo financed by the federal and state governments. There are now three such GRAIL laboratories in Germany (Dortmund, Rostock, Dresden).

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