Vicon and IMU  

by Matt Clarke, former IMeasureU CEO & now Business Development Director, Vicon

The last 12 months have been transformational for Auckland, New Zealand headquartered IMeasureU (IMU).

After a successful capital raising in late 2016, we started looking for distribution partners in the biomechanics research, clinical and sports science markets who could leverage our technology into their existing customer base and help us execute on our ambitions to build a global sensor and software business.

It was during these exploratory distribution conversations that acquisition of IMeasureU became a possible outcome. Many of IMU’s clients (all early adopters of inertial sensors for field-based biomechanics research) were and are motion capture users, and use their Vicon systems as the ground truth from which to compare their IMU data. This, coupled with Vicon CEO Imogen Moorhouse’s vision to bridge the gap between the lab and the field, plus her long-standing relationship with IMeasureU Chief Scientist and Co-founder Dr Thor Besier, quickly enabled trusted and open lines of communications between our two organizations.

The IMU and Vicon teams were excited and proud to announce Vicon’s acquisition of IMeasureU in July 2017. The respective company synergies in the biomechanics research market, both Vicon and IMU’s traditional core businesses, are clear. Customers will save huge amounts of time and money when conducting their research, via simple and seamless data synchronization of their indoor motion capture system and outdoor inertial system. Vicon has the enviable reputation as the gold standard in motion capture globally, and native integration of indoor and outdoor data capture will serve only to enhance this.

Besides bridging the gap between the lab and the field, another key tenet of the acquisition is Vicon and IMU’s combined ability to bridge the gap between biomechanics researchers and athletes. It has never ceased to amaze me that universities with some of the smartest scientists and greatest young athletes in the world do not connect the dots between those two cohorts. Coaches have long recognized the high performance and injury prevention value in movement efficiency and training load optimization, but have been constrained by the limitations of technology in getting accurate, actionable insights from the field that still allow athletes to move in their natural unencumbered environment. Conversely, biomechanics researchers have long known that their expertise could add value to athletics programs. IMU, backed by Vicon and powered by research, will deliver sport coaches, physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches and athletes precise, applied, actionable insights that improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

The first example of this is IMU Step, which consists of two high frequency, synchronized sensors on each ankle, which collect data on each step that an athlete takes. That step data is then analyzed via scientifically validated algorithms in the cloud and presented back to athletes and coaches as actionable insights via mobile/desktop/web apps. The IMU Step solution was built to help running-based sports like basketball, cross country, field hockey and American football to better manage lower limb load and reduce injury risk.

“Being able to measure and monitor the impact loads of every step during training and competition provides an unprecedented ability to understand and act upon an individual player’s load profile,” said Dr. Thor Besier, IMU Chief Scientist and founder of the Human Performance Lab at Stanford University. “Putting these data into the context of bone tissue adaptation then provides the athlete, coach, trainer and support staff with the information they need to make an informed decision to optimize training workload and return-to-play scenarios. IMU Step will bring about new understanding of injury biomechanics as we move outside the lab and obtain accurate measurements in the real world. As my colleague, Irene Davis at Harvard University says, ’This is biomechanics in the wild!'.”

Dr. Besier, along with IMU co-founder and head of development, Mark Finch, leads Vicon’s inertial research and development function in Auckland. Thor and Mark, who met at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and Auckland University, retain strong links with academia. It’s via these links that Vicon and IMU will stay on the leading edge of wearable biotechnology, for example, the machine learning work we are doing with the U.S. and Australian military to automatically identify and characterize different activities and movements in military, sport, and clinical settings.

With IMU Step and IMU/Vicon data sync due for release early 2018, and a whole bunch of other research, sport science and clinical applications in the pipeline, I’m genuinely excited about what lies ahead for Vicon and IMU customers in 2018 and beyond.