Vermont Patent of the Month – July 2021

Electromagnetic tracking systems use electromagnetic field emitters and sensors to determine position or orientation (PnO) of a tracked object. Hybrid tracking systems use gyroscopes, magnetometers, and other technology in combination with the electromagnetic sensors. Signals generated by the sensor of the electromagnetic tracking system can indicate a PnO of a sensor relative to a reference frame of the source, however this assumes the source itself has been accurately aligned.One aligning method is to use an exact mechanical fixture, however this is both expensive and time consuming. Alken, Inc. has developed a method for calibrating a magnetic source of an electromagnetic tracking system.

Their design uses an inertial motion unit (IMU) mounted to the magnetic source and aligned with the coil array of the magnetic source. The transmitter circuit generates the electromagnetic field while a receiver circuit senses this field and generates electrical signals in response. The transmitter circuit has an IMU with motion tracking devices such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, and magnetometers. Three of each allows for precise tracking of position along the XYZ axes and provides both position and orientation of the IMU. The IMU system tracks both the roll and pitch to indicate how level it is with the ground. This transmitter circuit would be attached to the fixed reference platform while the receiver circuit is attached to the tracked object. This allows the two objects to determine an accurate PnO relative to each other. This type of calibration helps in scenarios where the tracked object interacts with the fixed reference platform. For instance, the tracked object could be a wearable or handheld object like a helmet, a surgical device, or a stylus. These interact with fixed objects such as displays. It is especially helpful in augmented reality programs, where a surgeon may be wielding a surgical instrument which needs to properly interact with the platform displaying the augmented reality body they are practicing on. The applications are endless, which is why having reliable and efficient calibration techniques is so pertinent.

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