Real-time inverse kinematics for the upper limb: A model-based algorithm using segment orientations

Bence J. Borbély, Péter Szolgay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Model based analysis of human upper limb movements has key importance in understanding the motor control processes of our nervous system. Various simulation software packages have been developed over the years to perform model based analysis. These packages provide computationally intensive-and therefore off-line-solutions to calculate the anatomical joint angles from motion captured raw measurement data (also referred as inverse kinematics). In addition, recent developments in inertial motion sensing technology show that it may replace large, immobile and expensive optical systems with small, mobile and cheaper solutions in cases when a laboratory-free measurement setup is needed. The objective of the presented work is to extend the workflow of measurement and analysis of human arm movements with an algorithm that allows accurate and real-time estimation of anatomical joint angles for a widely used OpenSim upper limb kinematic model when inertial sensors are used for movement recording. Methods: The internal structure of the selected upper limb model is analyzed and used as the underlying platform for the development of the proposed algorithm. Based on this structure, a prototype marker set is constructed that facilitates the reconstruction of model-based joint angles using orientation data directly available from inertial measurement systems. The mathematical formulation of the reconstruction algorithm is presented along with the validation of the algorithm on various platforms, including embedded environments. Results: Execution performance tables of the proposed algorithm show significant improvement on all tested platforms. Compared to OpenSim's Inverse Kinematics tool 50-15,000x speedup is achieved while maintaining numerical accuracy. Conclusions: The proposed algorithm is capable of real-time reconstruction of standardized anatomical joint angles even in embedded environments, establishing a new way for complex applications to take advantage of accurate and fast model-based inverse kinematics calculations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalBioMedical Engineering Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 17 2017


  • Embedded systems
  • Inertial measurement unit (IMU)
  • Inverse kinematics (IK)
  • OpenSim
  • Real-time
  • Upper limb
  • Wearable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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