U prof creates smart insole to fix some walking problems

Posted at 10:36 PM, Dec 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-10 00:36:08-05

SALT LAKE CITY - A University of Utah professor of mechanical engineering is developing a shoe insole that can gather data that is comparable to Nike's popular line of high-tech sneakers.

U professor Stacy Bamberg says they've been researching insoles for several years with a goal of finding something people can wear while they're at home.

The new insole, called the Rapid Rehab system, will eventually help correct walking problems for people with artificial legs, hip replacements and broken legs. The real-time system uses a custom gel insole with force sensors that detect a person's walking pattern.

"What gets really exciting is not just to measure how people are walking but using it to get them real-time feedback," Bamberg said. "We've drawn up this system - small, portable - goes into your shoe with a little box that ties to your shoelaces and it talks wirelessly to your cell phone. On the cell phone, we have an app that's interpreting how you walk with every step you take and gives you immediate feedback to change various aspects about how you walk."

The immediate use of the technology is for amputees who would like to reduce how much they limp when using prosthetic legs.

"The feedback that is given to the patient looks at every step, how different your left foot is from your right foot and it gives you cues to nudge you towards being symmetrical while you walk," Bamberg said.

Within a few years, Bamberg hopes to be selling the Rapid Rehab system to physical therapists and their patients for around $500.

"My absolute dream is ultimately everything is in the insole and you can go to Walgreens and buy it, go to the app store on any type of phone and buy the app and you're good to go," she said.

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