Search for robot finds two human researchers in Canberra

By Published On: 08/02/2023
Ian Bergman stands on Balance Mat with Dr Maryam Ghahramani

Eighteen months ago I went to the University of Canberra in search of a robot to validate the results of my Balance Mat invention. What I stumbled on surprised and elated me.

Humans standing on the Balance Mat are very inconsistent in their sway pattern. What I needed was a method of ensuring that each Balance Mat was measuring equally between the mats.

Say you’ve got ten mats and you stand a person on each of them, if there’s a difference you don’t know whether that’s a difference in the person or a difference in the mats.

What I needed was a robot that could be programmed to have the same repeatable sway on the Balance Mat and see whether the mat would produce the same result each time.

I arranged to meet Associate Professor Robotics Group Dr Damith Herath at the robotics lab just down the road from where I work in the Canberra Technology Park in Watson. When I walked into the lab I saw quite an impressive setup with several robots of different sizes and shapes, including a very big mechanical arm (shown above in photograph of me with the University of Canberra’s Dr Maryam Ghahramani).

I set up my laptop and demonstrated how the Balance Mat worked with Damith (pictured below) as the subject of the test and he quickly understood what it was about. Then we chatted about my idea of using a robot to calibrate the mat. He said, “We could do that but we’d have to build a robot specifically to do it.”

Assoc-Prof-Damith-Herath-from-UC-Robotics-Lab

I thought that was very, very good, and we agreed to look into doing an official scientific collaboration between Balance Mat Pty Ltd and the university. And so the Balance Mat Innovation Partnership with the University of Canberra was born.

Dr Herath explained that the mechanical arm was something that could be used possibly because it was a controllable mechanism. At the time of our first meeting I just didn’t understand it but that’s the thing that has turned out to be the controller of the robot that we now use for testing the accuracy of the Balance Mat. For example, in one session during our eighteen-month collaboration the robot stood on the mat, programmed to sway in exactly the same way, for 56 tests. The result was that the lines on the graph laid over each other in exactly the same pattern. We were stunned because it meant that of course the Balance Mat was accurate to the nth degree.

Calibration robot at UC Robotics Lab with Binod Shrestha and Abishek Shrestha from Balance Mat Pty Ltd
Calibration robot pictured with Balance Mat programmer Binod Shrestha and electronics engineer Abishek Shrestha inside the University of Canberra robotics lab.

Back in June 2021 I had mentioned to Damith in passing that one of the main uses of the Balance Mat was to assess falls risk in older people. He beamed a big smile and said, “Hey, just down the corridor in a room you walked past on your way here is a falls researcher, my colleague, Dr Maryam Ghahramani.”

When we knocked on Dr Maryam Ghahramani’s door and Damith introduced her as a falls researcher she became very excited. She rushed back to the robot lab to see the Balance Mat for herself.

As soon as she saw it she grabbed a chair, put it against the mat, sat on it and told me, “Ok, start it now.” I understood that what she was doing was the sit-to-stand procedure that I knew about as a common balance test. I switched on the mat and she stood up and sat down five times in a row, watching the pattern on the screen as she did so.

So I went in search of a robot, actually found one, and as well found two human researchers who’ve helped me make enormous headway. I couldn’t have been more thrilled if you’d paid me!

Fast forward to October 2022 and Maryam is on her way to Texas to give a paper at the IEEE Sensors Conference. I was very excited to catch up with her and Damith in the robot lab on 14 October 2022 when she told Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Professor Lucy Johnston, about her findings that the Balance Mat has very high correlation with inertial sensors, a common methodology used worldwide as a balance testing tool. You can hear what Dr Ghahramani said if you click here.

Search for robot finds two human researchers in Canberra

By Published On: 08/02/20231 Comment
Ian Bergman stands on Balance Mat with Dr Maryam Ghahramani

Eighteen months ago I went to the University of Canberra in search of a robot to validate the results of my Balance Mat invention. What I stumbled on surprised and elated me.

Humans standing on the Balance Mat are very inconsistent in their sway pattern. What I needed was a method of ensuring that each Balance Mat was measuring equally between the mats.

Say you’ve got ten mats and you stand a person on each of them, if there’s a difference you don’t know whether that’s a difference in the person or a difference in the mats.

What I needed was a robot that could be programmed to have the same repeatable sway on the Balance Mat and see whether the mat would produce the same result each time.

I arranged to meet Associate Professor Robotics Group Dr Damith Herath at the robotics lab just down the road from where I work in the Canberra Technology Park in Watson. When I walked into the lab I saw quite an impressive setup with several robots of different sizes and shapes, including a very big mechanical arm (shown above in photograph of me with the University of Canberra’s Dr Maryam Ghahramani).

I set up my laptop and demonstrated how the Balance Mat worked with Damith (pictured below) as the subject of the test and he quickly understood what it was about. Then we chatted about my idea of using a robot to calibrate the mat. He said, “We could do that but we’d have to build a robot specifically to do it.”

Assoc-Prof-Damith-Herath-from-UC-Robotics-Lab

I thought that was very, very good, and we agreed to look into doing an official scientific collaboration between Balance Mat Pty Ltd and the university. And so the Balance Mat Innovation Partnership with the University of Canberra was born.

Dr Herath explained that the mechanical arm was something that could be used possibly because it was a controllable mechanism. At the time of our first meeting I just didn’t understand it but that’s the thing that has turned out to be the controller of the robot that we now use for testing the accuracy of the Balance Mat. For example, in one session during our eighteen-month collaboration the robot stood on the mat, programmed to sway in exactly the same way, for 56 tests. The result was that the lines on the graph laid over each other in exactly the same pattern. We were stunned because it meant that of course the Balance Mat was accurate to the nth degree.

Calibration robot at UC Robotics Lab with Binod Shrestha and Abishek Shrestha from Balance Mat Pty Ltd
Calibration robot pictured with Balance Mat programmer Binod Shrestha and electronics engineer Abishek Shrestha inside the University of Canberra robotics lab.

Back in June 2021 I had mentioned to Damith in passing that one of the main uses of the Balance Mat was to assess falls risk in older people. He beamed a big smile and said, “Hey, just down the corridor in a room you walked past on your way here is a falls researcher, my colleague, Dr Maryam Ghahramani.”

When we knocked on Dr Maryam Ghahramani’s door and Damith introduced her as a falls researcher she became very excited. She rushed back to the robot lab to see the Balance Mat for herself.

As soon as she saw it she grabbed a chair, put it against the mat, sat on it and told me, “Ok, start it now.” I understood that what she was doing was the sit-to-stand procedure that I knew about as a common balance test. I switched on the mat and she stood up and sat down five times in a row, watching the pattern on the screen as she did so.

So I went in search of a robot, actually found one, and as well found two human researchers who’ve helped me make enormous headway. I couldn’t have been more thrilled if you’d paid me!

Fast forward to October 2022 and Maryam is on her way to Texas to give a paper at the IEEE Sensors Conference. I was very excited to catch up with her and Damith in the robot lab on 14 October 2022 when she told Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Professor Lucy Johnston, about her findings that the Balance Mat has very high correlation with inertial sensors, a common methodology used worldwide as a balance testing tool. You can hear what Dr Ghahramani said if you click here.

  • The Neurometric Balance Mat is measuring the balance ability of elderly Singaporeans at the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI). Pictured is Mr Leow Zhun Hong (study senior clinical research coordinator).

Research into balance and sensory health

08/03/2024|0 Comments

A team of leading ophthalmology researchers who have been using the Neurometric Balance Mat in Singapore for the past nine months have provided me with this brief research update. Known as the PopulatION HEalth and Age-Related ...