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WiGait: MIT Designs Wireless Gadget That Predicts Health Issues Based on Walking Speed [Video]

May 03, 2017 10:45 AM EDT
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Any changes in a person's walking speed or stride length could suggest that the individual has suffered an injury or are at a higher risk of falling.
(Photo : Renee McKay/Getty Images)

A team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a new wireless device, dubbed as WiGait, that harnesses the power of walking speed as a great predictor of health issues, including certain cardiac or pulmonary diseases, falls and even cognitive decline.

WiGait is said to be capable of measuring the walking speed of multiple people with 95 to 99 percent accuracy using only wireless signal. WiGait is only about the size of a small painting and can be easily mounted on the wall. Because it uses wireless signals that are reflected off the human body, users are not required to put on any wristbands or other wearables.

"By using in-home sensors, we can see trends in how walking speed changes over longer periods of time," said Chen-Yu Hsu, a Ph.D. student at MIT and lead author of the study, in a press release. "This can provide insight into whether someone should adjust their health regimen, whether that's doing physical therapy or altering their medications."

Aside from one's walking speed, WiGait can also measure a person's stride length with 85 to 99 percent accuracy. A change in stride length can be an indicator of a negative health condition, such as Parkinson's disease that is characterized by reduced step size.

WiGait is capable of measuring walking speed with a high level of granularity. It does so by analyzing the surrounding wireless signals and how they are reflected off a human body. The device's algorithm is also capable of distinguishing walking from other movements, such as brushing teeth or cleaning the kitchen.

The researchers noted that any changes in a person's walking speed or stride length could suggest that the individual has suffered an injury or are at a higher risk of falling. Walking speed has also been linked with other avoidable hospitalization related to falling, congestive heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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