Our Labs

Mobility Measurement Co-Op

We have a new mobility assessment lab at the McMaster Innovation Park (MIP). This new lab is called the ‘Mobility Measurement Co-Op’ and features cutting-edge mobility assessment technology.

See the development progress below:

More details to come.


The MacREAL lab is a biomechanical research facility that combines laboratory-based measurements of body function and clinical assessment. The lab has a nine-camera optoelectronic motion capture system (Optotrak, Northern Digital Inc.), which are high precision cameras, similar to those used for game developing and movies, that accurately record human motion. There are two force plates (AMTI) embedded within the floor of the lab along a walkway that are synchronized with the cameras. The force plates allow us to measure forces acting on the body during activities of daily living, like walking.  Once the information from the cameras and force plates are put together, we use biomechanical modelling techniques to estimate joint forces and joint angular movement patterns during dynamic tasks such as walking.  This information can be used in a variety of clinical and research scenarios.

One area that challenges researchers is mobility impairment in older adults.  When we walk, muscles support the weight of our body, maintain balance and move the limbs, and age is associated with decreased ability to comply with these tasks, threatening safe locomotion and decreasing mobility.  Thus, understanding the changes in walking biomechanics in this age group would allow us to develop treatment strategies to improve balance and mobility and ultimately increase the quality of life of older Canadians.

We have just completed building a lean & release system that will help us understand the ability that older people have to recover balance after an external perturbation, which is an important skill for fall prevention.  The system is composed of a loading cell that controls the releasing of the body, simulating a postural perturbation, as when standing on an accelerating bus, or being nudged in a crowd.  The floor is instrumented with three additional force plates that measure, among many other things, the time the person takes to react and how the person reacts from the perturbation, by taking a step forward or by reaching out with arms and hands, for example.  In addition, by combining the lean & release system with the motion capture system, we will further understand what joint parameters might be constraining the perturbation response and reducing the balance abilities of the individuals.  This information could be used to develop interventions to prevent falls and to promote mobility.