Jogger with a soft J: Democratizing Motion Analysis

Biomechanics labs were a regular part of my schedule as a 21 year old majoring in Movement Science at the University of Michigan. The labs were weekly two hour sessions, 3:30 PM in the CCRB… each week covered a different topic. All these years later, most of the material I don’t remember (sad). However there was one lab that I do recall, and actually was a big driver in the original development of Yogger.

It was a lab to do some kinematic analysis while jumping. The task was to calculate various forces we were applying during the motion. So we had force plates hooked up to a little laptop. We’d record a video of ourselves jumping and then we would get the joint angles to complete the calculations. The data from the force plates was automatic, the taking a video was simple. But calculating joint angles through the movement was actually a pretty labor intensive process.

Frame by frame, we had to scroll forward through the video of our movement, in each frame clicking and plotting points for the lower body.

Hip ‘click’, knee ‘click’, ankleclick’, toe ‘click’. Repeat.

This three second jump ended up taking about thirty minutes to analyze. While that may be an exaggeration (it was like maybe 9 years ago?), it just felt like there should be a better and faster process for calculating the joint angles. It was 2013! Smart watches were becoming more popular, the PS4 was blowing the collective gaming world’s minds, and Google Glass, although a little creepy, was bound to be omnipresent in a few years. Having software to do the work for us automatically didn’t really seem like a big ask.

Several years later as a graduate student, this time studying Computer Engineering at Boston University I had very different assignments and labs. For a product development class I had to propose a software or hardware product to create and go through the process of research, ideation, development. Now with a background in Movement Science, and some 5 years working in healthcare, most of my masters projects tended to focus on healthcare, sports, or fitness. For some reason, that memory of my biomechanics lab came to mind, and for this particular project, I decided to dive back into the intersection of technology and biomechanics.

But what I found was … unsatisfying. I was surprised to find that 8(?) years later, the technology for calculating biomechanics had remained pretty stagnant for the average technology user. It’s 2022! Smart devices are all around us, billionaires are casually going to outer space, and Google Glass is … just weird still (and maybe dead?). It seemed like as good of a time as any to build something to help the poor undergrads who are still sitting in their biomechanics class, clicking away. So for a semester long, I worked on developing a solution to help my past undergrad self.

During the research phase, I came to two points of emphasis I really wanted to utilize with my project and take it a step further into something that has real world implications. Those two points were…

  1. It had to be sensorless – Let’s face it, wearables are out. After lots of research I came to the conclusion that wearable sensors aren’t a great solution for the analyzing movement data. They inhibit natural movement, and they take a chunk of time to get setup. If recording and analyzing natural movement was the goal, there had to be a sensorless solution. Plus this still isn’t accessible for most people, hardware wasn’t the least expensive solution.
  2. The technology had to fit into our natural environment – I didn’t want it to be bound to a laboratory. Meaning no expensive cameras, no costly equipment. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket (or fanny pack). This was the device I wanted to use as a means of gathering data.
  3. The technology had to fit into our natural environment – I didn’t want it to be bound to a laboratory. Meaning no expensive cameras, no costly equipment. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket (or fanny pack). This was the device I wanted to use as a means of gathering data.

Overall, the project was a success, but it felt like there was a bigger problem to solve and there was so much more opportunity to apply recent advances in machine learning. Not just for runners, or for undergraduate biomechanics labs, but for every person of all skill or fitness levels to move better. And have tools to help them do so.

After some market research, talking to future customers, and a lot of trial and error, Yogger has slowly evolved. And while the current form of Yogger may dabble in the all of healthcare, sports and fitness, the sentiment behind the product has remained the same since day 1.

Democratizing movement data.

The goal of Yogger is to bring the power of motion capture labs to the everyday PT clinics, sports coaches, or personal trainers. We want to provide an affordable tool to all the athletes and patients that don’t have time to go into a lab or the thousands of dollars to spend on expensive equipment. And not just for providing you tools to capture movement data, but also provide an educational suite to help you turn data into action and plans. We want to bring the expertise to the common athlete and patient (Dr. Bennett Richardson has a great post here covering how Yogger is democratizing movement data ). Providing access to motion analysis is important but translating that into action is what it’s really all about. Thus, our mantra.

Democratizing movement data to help better heal, maintain, and excel.

…To Better Heal

Healthcare has changed a lot since COVID. The need for virtual options is all but necessary now. The applications of motion analysis using just our mobile devices is huge in potential for patient monitoring post surgery, or monitoring progress from rehabbing from an injury. Dr. Matt Litchfield does an amazing job explaining how the current state of technology fits into injury rehab in this post.

…To Maintain

What about avoiding injuries in the first place? Making sure we have proper alignment, and movement is critical in preventing injuries. Check out this post by Dr. Dhara Shah pointing out how proper biomechanics can help avoiding injury.

…To Excel

And finally the fun stuff. Getting better at your sport, honing your technique, jumping higher, running faster. This is sports science in your living room. Taking the fancy motion capture lab and putting it in your front yard. We’re hoping to be the difference between making varsity vs. JV, getting a scholarship vs. being a walk on.

This is our hope and our vision and we’re excited to work with our customers to make the best product in motion analysis.

…Or at the very least, it can save an undergrad in a biomechanics course some time. I guess that’d be a success as well.

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