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United States Patent Application 20170291065
Kind Code A1
KLOPMAN; James E. October 12, 2017

BALANCE MEASUREMENT SYSTEMS AND METHODS THEREOF

Abstract

Balance measurement systems and methods thereof include at least one measurement device or indicator and an unstable or dynamic device or surface or other balance device. In example forms, the at least one measurement device is generally removably mounted to a portion of the body of a user (and/or to a portion of the balance device) such that the movements and body behavior of a user (and/or the balance device) can be measured as the user attempts to balance on the balance device. According to one example form, the unstable device includes a suspended rope or slackline. According to other example forms, the balance device includes a generally unstable platform.


Inventors: KLOPMAN; James E.; (Herber City, UT)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

SLACTEQ LLC

Park City

UT

US
Assignee: SLACTEQ LLC
Park City
UT

Family ID: 1000002603654
Appl. No.: 15/483065
Filed: April 10, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62319917Apr 8, 2016

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63B 24/0062 20130101; A63B 26/003 20130101; A63B 2220/803 20130101; A63B 2220/836 20130101; A63B 2230/10 20130101; A63B 2220/89 20130101; A63B 2225/50 20130101; A63B 2220/806 20130101; A63B 2220/40 20130101
International Class: A63B 24/00 20060101 A63B024/00; A63B 26/00 20060101 A63B026/00

Claims



1. A balance measurement system comprising: one or more measuring devices to be worn or generally removably coupled to a user; and a dynamic or unstable device or surface, the user attempting to balance on the device or surface while the one or more measuring devices obtain measurements produced by movement of the user reacting to the dynamic or unstable device or surface that the user is attempting to balance on.

2. The balance measurement system of claim 1, further comprising a network generally in communication or linked to the one or more measuring devices.

3. The balance measurement system of claim 2, further comprising an electronic device generally linked or in communication with the network and/or the one or more measuring devices.

4. The balance measurement system of claim 3, wherein the electronic device provides a user interface for the balance measurement system.

5. The balance measurement system of claim 1, wherein the one or more measurement devices obtain real time measurements of the movement and body behavior of the user while attempting to balance.

6. The balance measurement system of claim 1, wherein the one or more measuring devices each comprise at least one of a gyrometer, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer.

7. The balance measurement system of claim 1, further comprising a power supply for powering the one or more measurement devices.

8. A system for measuring the movement and behavior of a user balancing comprising: a balancing device; at least one component coupled to the user or balancing device; a measurement system to track in real time the movement and behavior of the at least one component while the user balances on the balancing device.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the at least one component comprises at least one of a gyrometer, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer.

10. The system of claim 8, wherein the measurement system comprises an electronic device generally linked or in communication with the at least one component.

11. The system of claim 8, wherein the at least one component comprises an identifiable marker for being tracked by one or more motion capture cameras.

12. The system of claim 11, further comprising a plurality of identifiable markers coupled to the user and balancing device.

13. The system of claim 8, wherein the balancing device comprises a stabilization component such that the allowable movement of a platform can be adjusted between a substantially loose configuration and a substantially tensioned configuration.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein in the substantially tensioned configuration the platform is restricted to minimal side-to-side movement or oscillation of between about 0.25-4 inches.

15. The system of claim 13, wherein in the substantially loose configuration the platform is capable of side-to-side movement or oscillation of between about 12-35 inches.

16. The system of claim 13, further comprising a motor and linkage coupled to the stabilization component such that adjustment to the stabilization component can be controlled remotely in real time.

17. The system of claim 8, wherein the balance device comprises a central member, a pair of outer bow members coupled to the central member, a pair of upper arm members coupled to the outer bow members and providing a plurality of height settings, a pair of leg members coupled to the outer bow members, a slackline generally positioned at one of the plurality of height settings of the upper arm members, and a platform positioned atop the line to provide a standing platform for the user to stand on when attempting to balance.

18. The system of claim 17, further comprising a tensioning mechanism coupled to a portion of the platform to provide adjustment to the allowable side-to-side movement of the platform.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein a generally resilient band couples between the platform and the tensioning mechanism, and wherein the tensioning mechanism can be manipulated to increase or decrease the tension of the band and thereby adjust the allowable side-to-side movement of the platform.

20. The system of claim 8, further comprising a brain scanner for scanning the brain of the user while the user balances on the balancing device.

21. The system of claim 8, further comprising one or more measuring devices for tracking the eye movement of the user while the user is balancing on the balancing device.

22. A method of measuring balance comprising: providing an unstable or dynamic device or surface; providing one or more measuring devices; removably mounting the one or more measuring devices on a user's limbs, other body portions thereof and/or to the device; placing at least a portion of the user's body on the unstable device or surface attempting to balance thereon; obtaining measurements of the one or more measuring devices as the user attempts to balance on the unstable device or surface; and processing and calculating a balance value based off of the measurements obtained from the one or more measuring devices, wherein an electronic device comprising software or an application is generally linked or in communication with one or more of the measurement devices such that the measurements obtained therefrom can be collected, stored and processed by the software or application of the electronic device.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/319,917 filed Apr. 8, 2016, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates generally to the field of athletic equipment, training and rehabilitation, and more particularly to systems and methods for obtaining real time measurements and movements of a user balancing on a suspended line or slackline, balance board, foam or any balance challenge device.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Athletic training is an essential aspect to maintaining the physical conditioning, endurance, agility, strength and balance of a human or animal subject. Athletes may focus on a broad training regime or limit training to a particular area. In the field of balance training, and more particular dynamic balance training, a tensioned or slack line of webbing or rope mounted between two fixed points may be used as a training technique, commonly known as "slacklining, slackbowing or tightrope walking." Optionally, other generally unstable surfaces including a balance board, foam, inflatable, semi-rigid or semi-flexible and resilient members can be used for balance training, for example, wherein a single foot or both feet can be placed thereon to attempt to balance. With respect to the slackline, the two fixed points support the ends of the slackline and bear the weight of the athlete and span a challenging length. U.S. Published patent application Ser. No. 13/297,543, Issued U.S. Pat. No. 8,986,178 B2, is incorporated herein by reference, and shows an example of a slackline apparatus and training method.

[0004] FIG. 1 shows a portion of a portable prior-art balancing device D in use by an athlete or user 5. The balancing device D can be used to increase the muscular development, neural balance, agility and coordination of the athlete 5 by providing a dynamic suspended line or support band L that is fixed at two opposing points on the structure. The athlete attempts to maintain balance by placing all or a part of their body on the dynamic suspended line, which can freely oscillate or move in the directions of a transverse axis T and a vertical axis V, which are mutually perpendicular of the lengthwise axis of the line L (see FIG. 3). Generally, the athlete 5 stands with one foot on the line wherein the weight of the athlete 5 causes the line L to flex or stretch, which causes the foot to conform or distort to the shape of the line L. Commonly, the line L comprises a 1''-2'' woven nylon, polyester or polypropylene web with about a 2,000 pound load rating, and in some example forms can be between a load rating of about 600-1000 pounds, or more or less.

[0005] For training purposes, it has been determined that a 1'' wide line L is easier to balance on than a 2'' line L, which can indicate that the greater the width of the line L corresponds to a greater degree of balance difficulty. FIG. 2 shows an athlete's footprint when standing on the 2'' line, which can be seen to not provide an area for the entire foot. It is desirable to increase the width of the line L, but a greater width beyond the 2'' width line L begins to influence the movement of the line in the transverse axis T, which can decrease the effectiveness of the balance training. Additionally, athletes 5 typically move or perform on flat surfaces that position their feet in a natural position, and training on devices that cause the feet to conform or distort to a particular position can be disadvantageous.

[0006] Furthermore, most all athletic balance and healthy balance is accomplished on one leg or on one foot. In some cases, this can be accomplished by shifting balance from one foot to the other on unstable surfaces. Generally, the only time a body is on two feet is when it is transitioning from one foot to the other. Any successful balance training device needs to challenge the body to the point of the whole body being involved in staying in balance. The arms and upper body will be forced to move in the balance challenge, as well as the leg not in contact with a portion of the balance device. In some cases, the movement of the body (or limbs thereof) is generally rapid. Balance challenges need to get progressively more difficult to be effective. Like adding weights on an over-head press machine as one gets stronger, balance challenge exercise equipment must be able to be adjusted to become more difficult as a person's balance improves. A balance challenge with a fall is the ultimate in terms of evaluating the limit of someone's balance.

[0007] As shown in FIG. 3, a balance training aid can be used with the slackline, for example, to provide a standing platform P for placement of one of the user's feet thereon. U.S. Published patent application Ser. No. 14/266,308, Patent Application Publication No. US 2014/0329653 A1, is incorporated herein by reference and shows an example balance training aid. Optionally, the balance training aid can be used with a slackline that is generally fixed between two points or fixed supports (see FIG. 4). Generally, regardless of whether or not the balance training aid is used with the line, as a person's balance improves, their body behavior during the balance challenge becomes more controlled. For example, as is common with a beginner user, when attempting to balance on one foot atop the suspended line, their arms, upper body, waist, and the leg and foot not in contact with the line will be forced to move (substantially rapidly in some cases) to maintain balance on the suspended line (or on the balance training aid). As a user progresses, their body behavior while balancing on the suspended line is generally more controlled, generally resulting in less rapid body movements and in some cases only generally small subtle movements with their arms. Thus, to further the balance training, the difficulty of the balance challenge can be increased provide a greater balance challenge, and thus resulting in an altered body behavior.

[0008] In most cases, a user's body behavior while balancing on the balance device (or suspended line thereof) at a given balance difficulty level generally determines their overall balance. However, really being able to determine a more accurate model of a person's overall balance is not likely, for example, since a person observing the person balancing can only be so detailed and specific with respect to the person's body behavior. Thus, there lies a large discrepancy with respect to the real body behavior and overall balance of the person relative to the user-observed outcome and overall balance of the person.

[0009] Accordingly, it can be seen that needs exist for a measurement system for use with the suspended line and the user attempting to balance thereon. It is to the provision of a balance measurement system and methods thereof meeting these and other needs that the present invention is primarily directed.

SUMMARY

[0010] In example embodiments, the present invention provides a balance measurement system and methods of measuring balance. In example embodiments, one or more devices are generally removably coupled to one or more portions of a user or a balancing device, and then the user attempts to balance on an unstable or generally dynamic device or platform. In example forms, only a single foot of the user is placed against the unstable or dynamic device or platform. Optionally, both feet of the user are placed against the unstable or dynamic device or platform.

[0011] In one aspect, the present invention relates to a balance measurement system comprising one or more measuring devices to be worn or generally removably coupled to a user, and a dynamic or unstable device or surface. In example forms, a user with the one or more measuring devices coupled thereto attempts to balance on the unstable or dynamic device or platform and the one or more measurement devices obtain real time measurements of the movement and body behavior of the user while attempting to balance. Optionally, one or more measuring devices are generally coupled to the unstable training device or surface, for example instead of the user, and the movement/behavior, etc. of the unstable training device is generally captured such it can be measured to obtain measurements, which can be a direct indicator of the user's balance that is attempting to balance thereon. In example forms, the

[0012] In another aspect, the invention relates to a method of measuring balance including providing an unstable or dynamic device or surface; providing one or more measuring devices; removably mounting the one or more measuring devices on a user's limbs or other body portions thereof; placing at least a portion of the user's body on the unstable device or surface attempting to balance thereon; obtaining measurements of the one or more measuring devices as the user attempts to balance on the unstable device or surface; and processing and calculating a balance value based off of the measurements obtained from the one or more measuring devices. Optionally, a measuring device can be removably mounted to the unstable device that the user is attempting to balance on. In one example form, an electronic device is generally linked or in communication with one or more of the measurement devices such that the measurements obtained therefrom can be collected, stored and processed by the software or application of the electronic device.

[0013] In yet another aspect, the invention relates to a system for measuring the movement and behavior of a user balancing including a balancing device, at least one component coupled to the user or the balancing device, and a measurement system to track in real time the movement and behavior of the at least one component while the user balances on the balancing device.

[0014] In another aspect, the invention relates to a method of measuring balance including providing an unstable or dynamic device or surface; providing one or more measuring devices; removably mounting the one or more measuring devices on a user's limbs, other body portions thereof and/or to the device; placing at least a portion of the user's body on the unstable device or surface attempting to balance thereon; obtaining measurements of the one or more measuring devices as the user attempts to balance on the unstable device or surface; and processing and calculating a balance value based off of the measurements obtained from the one or more measuring devices, wherein an electronic device comprising software or an application is generally linked or in communication with one or more of the measurement devices such that the measurements obtained therefrom can be collected, stored and processed by the software or application of the electronic device.

[0015] These and other aspects, features and advantages of the invention will be understood with reference to the drawing figures and detailed description herein, and will be realized by means of the various elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following brief description of the drawings and detailed description of the invention are exemplary and explanatory of preferred embodiments of the invention, and are not restrictive of the invention, as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of portion of a prior-art slackline training apparatus having an individual user thereon.

[0017] FIG. 2 is a detail view of a footprint of the individual user standing on the prior-art line of FIG. 1.

[0018] FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of a prior-art slackline balance training aid being used with the slackline training apparatus of FIG. 1 and having an individual user standing thereon.

[0019] FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of a prior art slackline assembly including a line having ends coupled to supports, and wherein the slackline training apparatus is removably coupled to the line and comprises an individual user standing thereon.

[0020] FIG. 5 is a front plan view of an individual user balancing on a slackline according to a first example embodiment of the present invention, wherein one leg of the user is generally placed atop the slackline while the other limbs thereof generally move and behave such that the user remains balanced with one foot standing on the slackline, and wherein one or more measurement devices are generally removably coupled to one or more portions of the user to obtain real time measurements of the movements of the user's limbs and the resulting body behavior thereof.

[0021] FIG. 6 is a schematic representation of a communications link of the devices shown in FIG. 5 and an electronic device according to another example embodiment of the present invention.

[0022] FIG. 7 is a schematic representation of a communications link of the devices shown in FIG. 5 and an electronic device according to another example embodiment of the present invention.

[0023] FIGS. 8-10 show a balance device according to an example embodiment of the present invention, and showing one or more measurement devices coupled or embedded within the balance device.

[0024] FIGS. 11-13 show a user attempting to balance on the balance device of FIGS. 8-10, and shows one or more measuring devices generally removably coupled to the user such that their movements and body behavior can be measured.

[0025] FIGS. 14-15 shows a balance device according to another example embodiment of the present invention.

[0026] FIGS. 16-18 show a user attempting to balance on the balance device of FIGS. 14-15, and showing one or more measuring devices generally removably coupled to the balance device and the user for obtaining measurements of the movements of the user and/or the balance device.

[0027] FIG. 19 shows a balance device according to another example embodiment of the present invention, and showing a tensioning mechanism for providing adjustment to the allowable movement of a platform relative to the balance device, and further showing one or more measurement devices for obtaining measurements of the movements of the user and/or portions of the balance device.

[0028] FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view of the balance device taken along line 20-20 of FIG. 19 showing the internal components of the tensioning mechanism.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

[0029] The present invention may be understood more readily by reference to the following detailed description of the invention taken in connection with the accompanying drawing figures, which form a part of this disclosure. It is to be understood that this invention is not limited to the specific devices, methods, conditions or parameters described and/or shown herein, and that the terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments by way of example only and is not intended to be limiting of the claimed invention. Any and all patents and other publications identified in this specification are incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein.

[0030] Also, as used in the specification including the appended claims, the singular forms "a," "an," and "the" include the plural, and reference to a particular numerical value includes at least that particular value, unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Ranges may be expressed herein as from "about" or "approximately" one particular value and/or to "about" or "approximately" another particular value. When such a range is expressed, another embodiment includes from the one particular value and/or to the other particular value. Similarly, when values are expressed as approximations, by use of the antecedent "about," it will be understood that the particular value forms another embodiment.

[0031] With reference now to the drawing figures, wherein like reference numbers represent corresponding parts throughout the several views, FIG. 5 shows a user 5 balancing on a slackline L, for example, wherein one foot of the user 5 is generally supported by the line and the other limbs thereof (e.g., leg/foot and arms) generally move and behave such that the user 5 remains in balance on the slackline L. In the depicted embodiment, the slackline L is generally removably mounted to the balance device D. However, according to other example embodiments, the slackline L can be mounted or tensioned between to generally fixed points or supports (see FIG. 4), or optionally can be mounted to other engagement members or anchors such that the slackline remains suspended above a support or ground surface when a user applies their weight thereon and attempts to balance.

[0032] According to preferred example embodiments of the present invention, one or more measurement elements, wearables, modules or devices 10 are generally removably mounted to one or portions of the user, for example, to monitor and obtain measurements of the user's limbs and body behavior while the user 5 balances. In example embodiments, it is preferably desirable to accurately quantify the user's balance, for example, by obtaining measurements of the user's body behavior (e.g., rapid movements of the limbs and body) while attempting to balance on the slackline L, and further processing/calculating the measurements to determine an absolute balance value that can generally range between a value of between about 0 to about 100 (as will be described below).

[0033] According to one example form, the one or more devices 10 are generally in the form of electronic modules comprising one or more components including a gyrometer, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, etc. for measuring the movement and behavior of the device, for example, the acceleration, position, orientation, relative positions, relative orientations, relative accelerations, or other desirable and measurable parameters, etc. Preferably, the one or more devices 10 are generally configured to measure the parameters thereof in three-dimensional space, for example, such that each measurement can generally comprise an X component, a Y component, and a Z component. Thus, when the one or more devices 10 are removably coupled to one or more portions of the user 5, measurements of the movement and behavior (e.g., position, acceleration, orientation, and relatives thereof, etc.) of the user's body while the balancing on the slackline L can be obtained.

[0034] For example, one of the devices 10 may be measuring the movement, etc. of the user's 5 left arm while another device 10 can be used to measure the movement, etc. of the user's leg that is generally in contact with the slackline L (depicted as the user's right leg in FIG. 5). As such, the body behavior of the user 5 can be measured in real time as the user 5 balances (or attempts to balance) on the slackline L. Optionally, a measurement device 10 can be generally mounted to the slackline L itself, for example, to obtain measurements of the slackline L while the user 5 balances thereon. Further optional, when using the balance training aid as depicted in FIGS. 3-4, the measurement device 10 that is attached to the line L can be attached to the balance training aid instead, or one or more measurement devices 10 can be attached to the slackline L and/or one or more measurement devices 10 are attached to the balance training aid. Thus, in some example forms, the one or more measurement devices 10 can be configured for measuring the movement/behavior or the user attempting to balance, or for example, one or more measurement devices 10 can be generally removably coupled to one or more portions of the balance device (e.g., the slackline L or balance training aid) to obtain measurements of the movement thereof. Furthermore, one or more measurement devices 10 can be generally removably coupled to both the user attempting to balance and one or more portions of the device, for example, to obtain measurements of the movements of both the user and the balance device.

[0035] In some example forms, as the tension of the slackline L is known to influence the difficulty of the balance challenge (e.g., more tension is less difficult and less tension is more difficult), one or more devices, sensors, etc. can be provided for obtaining a substantially accurate tension value of the slackline L. In some example forms, the tension value can be obtained by one or more sensors generally permanently or removably coupled to the slackline (or incorporated therewith), for example, such that the tension of the slackline L can be measured prior to the user attempting to balance thereon and/or can be measured with the user applying their weight thereon. Optionally, the tension of the slackline L may be measured in real time, for example, throughout the balance challenge, which can provide additional parameters to further enhance the calculated balance value of the user. Similarly, as described with respect to the one or more measurement devices, the one or more sensors for measuring the tension of the slackline L can be linked and in communication with one or more of the devices and/or the electronic device 20. Optionally, according to other example embodiments, the tension of the slackline L can be obtainable by measuring the amount of allowable swing or side-to-side oscillation in the slackline L. Optionally, according to some example forms, a mechanism can be provided for generally removably mounting to the slackline L, and whereby applying tension to the slackline L generally causes displacement of at least a portion of the mechanism relative to another portion of the mechanism, for example, such that the tension of the slackline L can be measured. According to another example form, one or more gauges or sensors can be mounted to the balance training device, for example, to measure the deformation, stress and/or strain of the balance training device such that the tension of the slackline L can be determined. According to yet another example embodiment, one or more mechanisms can be provided such that the tension of the line can be controlled remotely, for example, such that the tension can be varied while the user 5 attempts to balance on the slackline L, thereby adding another degree of difficulty to the balance challenge.

[0036] According to one example form, an electronic device or smart phone 20 comprising a computer processor, hardware (e.g., transceivers), software (e.g., computer readable instructions stored as applications), and a memory including a computer-readable storage medium can be provided. The memory has stored therein an application including instructions executable by the processor for communicating with the one or more devices 10 that are being worn or generally removably coupled to the user 5, or for example, generally coupled to the balance device. For example, according to some example forms, an application stored within the memory can include instructions that, when executed, provide for and manage communications with one or more devices 10, for example, such that the continuous real time individual measurements of each device 10 can be transmitted and stored on the electronic device 20. The memory may also have stored therein an application including instructions executable by the processor for example to determine the balance value or score based on the measurements or movement/behavior of the one or more devices 10 and/or the electronic device 20, for example, which is generally selected from a balance scale (as described below), and which comprises a plurality of different balance values ranging between generally no balance at all to expert balance. In some example embodiments, when at least two devices 10 are used for measuring the user's 5 movement and body behavior while balancing on the slackline L (or for measuring the movement of the balance device), the at least two devices preferably can comprise a communications link therebetween and with the electronic device 20.

[0037] For example, FIG. 6 shows a representative communications configuration of the devices 10, for example, wherein each device 10 is generally linked or in communication with at least one other device, and at last one of the linked devices 10 is generally linked or in communication with the electronic device 20. According to one example form, seven (7) devices are generally removably attached to the user (and/or balance device) to measure movement and body behavior. For example, a first device 30 is generally removably attached to the slackline, a second device 40 is generally removably attached around the chest or upper body portion of the user 5, a third device 50 is generally removably attached to the right limb, wrist or hand of the user 5, a fourth device 60 is generally removably attached to a left limb, wrist or hand of the user 5, a fifth device 70 is generally removably attached to a right leg or foot of the user 5, a sixth device 80 is generally removably attached to a left leg or foot of the user 5, and a seventh device 90 is generally removably attached to the user's head. Optionally, one or more of the devices can be added to other portions of the user and/or the device. Optionally, according to some example embodiments, about two devices are removably mounted to the user, for example, rather than the seven disclosed herein. Optionally, a desirable amount of devices are removably mounted to the user and/or the device. Optionally, one or more devices can be permanently mounted to the balance device.

[0038] According to example embodiments, the first device 30 is generally in communication with at least one of the other five devices. For example, according to one example form and as depicted in FIG. 6, the first device 30 (which is generally removably attached to the slackline L or balance device) is generally linked or in communication with the six other devices, for example, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh device 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. As such, the position, orientation, acceleration, etc. of the other devices 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 relative to the first device 30 is measurable and can be used as desired to benefit the accuracy in the associated balance value of the user, for example, based on the user's behavior while attempting on the balance device or other unstable surface. Furthermore, the position, orientation, acceleration, etc. of the devices relative to at least two of the other devices is obtainable and measurable. Preferably, according to some example forms of the present invention, it is generally the interrelationship of the relative positions, orientations, accelerations, etc. of the devices 30-90 that can be processed and selectively utilized to obtain substantially accurate balance values of the user 5, or for example, to obtain a processed and equated balance value with respect to the scale generally having values generally ranging from between about 0 to about 100. According to some example forms, the electronic device 20 can be used as the sole measuring device, for example, which can be generally removably coupled to the unstable balance device (e.g., slackline, board on slackline, other unstable platform or device, etc.), or can be used in combination with the one or more devices 10 as described herein. According to one alternate embodiment, the one or more devices 10 can link or communicate directly with the electronic device 10 and/or the other respective devices 10. According to one example embodiment, the electronic device can be used entirely by itself to measure and calculate a balance value.

[0039] In example forms, the balance scale generally comprises at least two or more distinguishing points or levels along the scale. In some example forms, the balance scale is generally stored in memory on the electronic device 20, for example, so that the balance value of the user can be obtainable once the movement of the devices 10 and/or electronic device 20 is captured and generally stored in memory. Alternatively, the balance scale can be stored in the cloud or otherwise accessible in the memory in the electronic device 20. According to one example form, the balance scale generally comprises about 6 levels including (1) a balance value of 0 (signifying the user does not have a balance system and lying down is generally all that can be done), (2) a balance value of about 20 (signifying the point at which a cane or walking stick is generally required), (3) a balance value of 60 (signifying generally beginner to intermediate balance, e.g., weekend warrior-level balance), (4) a balance value of about 75 (generally signifying a collegiate or pro athlete's balance), (5) a balance value of about 85+ (signifying the balance value of the top professional athletes, e.g., Wayne Gretzky (NHL hockey legend), Seth Curry (NBA basketball), Jordan Spieth (PGA golfer)), and a balance value of about 95+ (generally signifying the balance value of a circus balance performer or professional Cirque du Soleil performer).

[0040] Furthermore, in addition to the interrelationship of the relative positions, etc., the individual position, orientation, acceleration, etc. of each of the devices 30-90 can be utilized for processing with or without the relative positions, etc. such that a balance value can be calculated based on the body behavior and movement of the user 5 as they balance on the slackline L. However, according to some example forms of the present invention, a more accurate value may be obtainable by having each individual position, orientation, acceleration, etc. of the devices 30-90 and the relative positions, orientations, accelerations, etc. thereof.

[0041] Optionally, as shown in FIG. 7, according to another example embodiment of the present invention, one or more of the devices 10 can be generally in communication or linked with a network 100, and the electronic device 20 can further be in communication or linked with the network 100. Thus, the one or more devices 10 generally communicate or are linked with the electronic device 20 via the network 100.

[0042] As described above, the electronic device 20 generally comprises a memory in which an application is stored as computer readable instructions which a processor executes to analyze measurements from the devices 10. The electronic device receives real time individual measurements (e.g., position, orientation, acceleration, etc.) of each of the devices 10, and can further receive relative measurements of the devices 10 with respect to each other. In some example forms, the one or more devices 10 can generally be labeled or assigned within the application or elsewhere within the memory of the electronic device, for example, in an initial set-up procedure such that the particular device is labeled to identify the accurate portion of the body it is removably mounted to. For example, as certain parts of the user's body are different and thus movements thereof are different (e.g., movement of a leg when attempting to balance is substantially different than the movement of an arm or the chest, etc. of the user 5 when attempting to balance), the devices 10 can be labeled within the application such that the calculations and processing of the measurements can be coupled or analyzed appropriately.

[0043] In one example form, it may be desirable to generally compare or calculate a balance level based of the normal body behavior (and thus normal movements, positions, orientations, accelerations, etc.) of a user's body comprising a balance value of at least about 95. For example, the measurements of the user comprising substantially perfect balance can be stored within the memory of the electronic device 20, along with the application for processing the measurements. As such, the user's measurements when attempting to balance on the slackline L are generally processed, analyzed, compared, calculated, etc. with respect to a substantially perfect balance value to determine the resulting balance value.

[0044] For example, according to one example form, measurements of the positional displacements, orientations, and accelerations of the substantially perfect balance level can be generally substantially small or relatively low compared to the measurements obtained from a user that generally has little to no balance. Thus, generally the larger deviation from the measurement of the substantially perfect balance value generally results in a reduction in the calculated balance value. Furthermore, accelerations and other movements/behavior of a relatively inexperienced, zero-balance user can be substantially greater and rapid as compared to the accelerations and other movements/behavior of an expert user having a balance value of about 95+, for example, which causes the movement to be generally controlled, relatively slow and substantially graceful. For example, for a user with zero to generally no balance, the path or movement of one or more of the devices 10 and/or the electronic device 20 can be substantially drastic and reveal a substantially large change in position over a substantially short period of time (e.g., 0.25-1 second), for example, which reveals that the user had to substantially adjust their body position to maintain balance on the balance device. In contrast, for a user with a balance value of about 95+, the movement of the one or more devices 10 and/or electronic device 20 is generally controlled and less quick, for example, such that the positions of the one or more devices 10 and/or electronic device 20 gradually move between positions over a generally moderate to longer time span. Furthermore, other measurements obtainable from the one or more devices 10 and/or electronic device 20 can be used for calculating the balance value or providing information for determining an accurate balance value of the user attempting to balance thereon.

[0045] In example embodiments, the parameters of a user can be initially be input within the application or electronic device, or for example, an initialization or configuration process can be utilized to determine the unique parameters of the user. In one example embodiment, once the one or more devices 10 are mounted to the user, the user is taken through one or more sets of body movements such that the application or electronic device 20 can determine the relative positions of the one or more devices 10 attached to the user. According to one example embodiment, the user stands on a floor surface with their arms by their side, knees slightly bent, and looking straight ahead, and a measurement is taken to define the user in a normal standing position. In another example embodiment, the user goes through one or more body movements while standing on a floor surface to further obtain measurements of the one or more devices, for example, such that an initial profile of the user can be obtained prior to attempting to balance on the balance device.

[0046] According to another example form as depicted in FIGS. 8-10, a balance training aid D2 (e.g., which can be used with the balance measurement systems and methods as described herein) can be in the form of a plate or platform and a block, for example, which is disclosed in U.S. Published patent application Ser. No. 14/266,308, Patent Application Publication No. US 2014/0329653 A1, and which is incorporated herein by reference. In example forms, the balance training aid D2 is placed on a block or stationary support member B, and then the athlete 5 attempts to maintain balance by placing all or a part of their body on a top surface of the support member, plate or board P. Generally, in most applications, one foot is placed on the top surface of the board P, and attempting to maintain balance while standing with one foot placed on the board P generally has the same, if not greater, effect as placing the balance training aid on the suspended line L.

[0047] Preferably, the training aid D2 is unstable in a variety of directions, for example an axial direction Ab, a transverse direction Tb, and a vertical direction Vb. In example forms, the plate P can be mounted, coupled or otherwise secured to the block B, for example with hook and loop material or other coupling elements or fasteners. As depicted in FIGS. 9-10, the width WB of the block B is about 3'', the length LB of the block B is about 13'', and the height HB of the block B is about 3''. In one example form, the width W of the board P is greater than the width WB of the block B and the length of the board P is greater than the length LB of the block B. Optionally, the width WB and the length LB of the block B can vary as desired. Preferably, the height HB of the block B can vary as desired, for example, to increase or decrease the difficulty of balancing thereon. In example forms, the board P can be about 2''-6'' wide, about 6''-20'' long, and about 0.25''-1.5'' thick. In example forms, the board P is less than stable, flexible, and/or deformable to cause an increase in the difficulty of balancing when the athlete places all or a part of their body on the top surface of the board P. In one form, the block B is in the form of a foam material.

[0048] Preferably, the foam material can be open-cell foam, closed-cell foam, or other foams as desired. Generally, the rigidity and density of the foam can vary as desired, for example, to increase or decrease the difficulty of balancing thereon. Optionally, the block B can be formed from an air-filled or liquid-filled vessel or bag that is generally constructed from a pliable material, for example wherein a valve and/or filling aperture can be provided to adjust the inflation or liquid level therein, which adjusts the stability of the bag. Further optional, the block B can incorporate springs or other flexible members to simulate the flexible, less-than-stable, and deforming characteristics of the foam.

[0049] In example forms, one or more measurement devices can be incorporated with at least a portion of the balance device D2 (depicted as 30), or may be generally removably coupled thereto, for example, such that measurements of the movement of the balance device D2 can be obtained when the user 5 is attempting to balance thereon. As such, the one or more measurement devices that are incorporated in the balance device (and/or one or more measurement devices attached to the user) can be utilized as similarly described above to obtain measurements of the user while attempting to balance on the balance device D2.

[0050] As depicted in FIGS. 11-13, a user 5 is generally attempting to maintain their balance while standing with one foot atop the plate P of the device D2. As depicted, the user generally comprises a plurality of measurement devices coupled thereto, for example, to obtain measurements or the behavior of the devices and thus the movement and behavior of the user as the user attempts to balance atop the balance device D2. According to example forms, each of the devices 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 comprise a three-dimensional coordinate system including an X, Y and Z axis, for example, such that the orientation (e.g., roll, pitch, yaw), position, etc. of the plurality of portions of the user's body can be measured throughout the balance challenge. As described above, one or more devices can be optionally included with the balance device D2. Further optional, an electronic device 20 can be provided for communicating with the one or more devices worn by the user or generally mounted to the balance device D2. Optionally, one or more of the devices worn by the user or mounted to the balance device D2 can be in the form of an electronic device, for example, to receive the measurements of the movements (of the user or the balance device) to calculate a balance value. Similarly, the one or more devices can link or communicate with the electronic device 20 and/or the network 100.

[0051] FIGS. 14-15 show a balance device D3 according to another example embodiment of the present invention. As depicted, the balance device D3 generally comprises a generally rectangular platform or plate P and a generally cylindrical member or roller R. Generally, the plate P comprises a channeled portion or guidance track for receiving the roller R therein. Generally, the roller R is placed on a support surface and the plate P is positioned atop the roller R such that the roller R is generally capable of movement within the channeled portion of the plate P. As shown in FIGS. 16-18, a user 5 generally places both feet atop the plate P and attempts to balance thereon, for example, such that both ends of the plate P generally remain offset and positioned above the support surface. According to preferred example forms, the plate P generally comprises a pin or anchor A for receiving one or more weighted objects WE, for example, to act as a counterbalance mechanism, which generally increases the difficulty of balancing thereon. In example forms, the weighted objects WE can range in weight, for example, generally between about 1 pound to about 60 pounds. According to one example embodiment, a measurement device is provided such that the weight of the weighted objects WE can be calculated automatically or can be manually input into the electronic device 20, for example, as the weight of the weighted objects WE can influence the difficulty of the balance challenge. Optionally, according to other example embodiments, an additional anchor A can be positioned on a generally opposite side of the plate P wherein one or more weighted objects can be placed thereon, which can be the same weight or can vary in weight relative to the other weighted objects WE.

[0052] As similarly described with respect to FIGS. 11-13, the user 5 shown in FIGS. 16-18 generally comprises a plurality of measurement devices 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 generally removably attached thereto, for example, to measure the movement and body behavior as the user 5 attempts to balance on the plate P. In some example forms, a measurement device 30 is generally removably attached to the plate P such that the movement thereof can be measured (either by itself or in combination with the plurality of measurement devices generally removably coupled to the user).

[0053] According to some example forms, one or more exercises or training procedures can be implemented during the balance challenge. For example, the user may be required to perform certain movements (e.g., bending over, reaching in a certain direction, catching and throwing a weighted object, holding or swinging an object, etc.) during the balance challenge.

[0054] In example embodiments, the measurement devices or wearables to be worn by the user can take on various forms, for example, a GPS watch, running watch, fitness watch, sports watch, Android or iOS smart watches, activity trackers, fitness bands, GPS trackers, etc. Optionally, other devices including at least a gyrometer, an accelerometer, a magnetometer and a power source can be utilized as desired. Optionally, other electronic devices can be utilized as desired. Preferably, the measurement devices are generally capable of communication with other measurement devices or other devices (e.g., an electronic device or smart phone) wirelessly, for example, via WiFi, cellular, Bluetooth, infrared, or other means for providing wireless communications. In further example embodiments, one or more of the measurement devices can take on various other forms, for example, a smart shoe, or other articles of clothing, glasses, or for example a smart ring or jewelry as disclosed in U.S. Published patent application Ser. No. 14/676,576, Patent Application Publication No. US 2015/0277559 A1, which is incorporated herein by reference.

[0055] In another example embodiment, the present invention relates to a method of measuring balance including providing an unstable or dynamic device or surface; providing one or more measuring devices; removably mounting the one or more measuring devices on a user's limbs or other body portions thereof; placing at least a portion of the user's body on the unstable device or surface attempting to balance thereon; obtaining measurements of the one or more measuring devices as the user attempts to balance on the unstable device or surface; and processing and calculating a balance value based off of the measurements obtained from the one or more measuring devices. Optionally, a measuring device can be removably mounted to the unstable device that the user is attempting to balance on. In one example form, an electronic device is generally linked or in communication with one or more of the measurement devices such that the measurements obtained therefrom can be collected, stored and processed by a processor executing instructions stored in a memory of the electronic device.

[0056] Preferably, as described herein and according to example embodiments of the present invention, one or more devices (or an electronic device) can be generally either permanently or removably attached to one or more portions of the user and/or the generally unstable balance device such that the movements thereof (e.g., the user and/or device) as the user attempts to balance thereon can be obtained to calculate a balance value. Preferably, the movement (positions, orientations, accelerations, etc.) of the user and/or the balance device over a desirable time span can be obtainable to calculate a substantially accurate balance value. Preferably, the one or more devices preferably reveal how the user's body is moving throughout the balance challenge, and thus, reveals a realistic balance value. Preferably, according to some example forms, the rate of movement (e.g., movement over time) is utilized to determine the user's balance value.

[0057] FIG. 19 shows a balance device D4 according to another example embodiment of the present invention. According to one example embodiment, the balance device D4 comprises a central member CM, a pair of outer bow members OBM coupled to the central member, a pair of upper arm members coupled to the outer bow members OBM and providing a plurality of height settings, and a pair of leg members LM coupled to the outer bow members OBM. In example embodiments, a slackline L or other line, rope or generally flexible member is generally positioned at one of the plurality of height settings of the upper arm members (e.g., each end of the line L coupled to the same height setting), and a platform P2 is positioned atop the line L to provide a standing platform for the user to stand on when attempting to balance. In the depicted embodiment, the line L is substantially loose and positioned at the highest or most upper height setting.

[0058] In example embodiments, the balance device D4 comprises a tensioning mechanism or stabilization component 200, for example, which is generally coupled to a portion of the platform P2, for example, so that a connecting member or resilient band 300 can be tensioned to limit the allowable movement (e.g., side-to-side movement) of the platform P2 and line L relative to the balance device D4. Thus, according to example embodiments, the stabilization component 200 provides adjustment to the allowable movement of the platform P2, for example, such that in addition to the allowable adjustment to the height of where the line L engages with the height setting of the upper arm members, the tension of the band 300 is adjustable to control the allowable side-to-side movement of the platform P2. According to example embodiments, the band 300 is generally substantially resilient and elastic to allow a generally smooth and transitional movement between a generally neutral or central position (e.g., generally positioned directly above the central member CM) and to either the left or right bound of the platform P2. For example, rather than having a hard stop at the bounds of the allowable movement (which could cause imbalance when reaching the hard stop), the resilient band 300 preferably provides a smooth transition without any hard stops such that the user is bounded by a certain allowable side-to-side movement without exposure to abrupt boundaries or limits of the side-to-side movement, which could throw the user off balance prematurely.

[0059] As depicted in FIG. 20, the stabilization component 200 comprises an elongate rod or member 210 extending entirely through the central member CM. In example embodiments, the member 201 comprises a slot 214 or other engagement portion such that the band 300 can be engaged therewith. The member 210 comprises a first end 216 comprising an end stop and a second end 218 comprising a handle 220 attached thereto, for example, such that rotation thereof when the member 210 is actuated (as depicted in FIG. 20) causes either tensioning or loosening of the band 300. In example embodiments, an engagement mechanism 230 is provided and comprises an engagement portion 232 (generally mounted to the member 210) for providing engagement with an engagement portion 234 of the central member. For example, in a neutral position, a biasing spring is provided to cause engagement of the engagement portions 232, 234 such that the member 210 is incapable of rotation. In example embodiments, the engagement portions 232, 234 can be in the form of interengaging ridges and reliefs or other compatible or complementary engagement features such that engagement therebetween prevents rotation of the member 210 relative to the central member CM. In example embodiments, axial movement of the member 210 in a direction generally transverse the extension of the central member CM causes the engagement portions 232, 234 to disengage each other such that the handle 220 can be rotated to either tighten or loosen the band 300 to adjust the allowable side-to-side movement of the platform P2. According to some example embodiments, the stabilization component 200 can be automated or capable of being controlled remotely, for example, via the electronic device 20, or other controller or device, for example, wherein a motor 400 couples to the stabilization component 200 to either tighten or loosen the band 300 as desired. For example, according to example embodiments, while the user is training or attempting to balance of the platform, the tension of the band 300 can be adjusted in real time such that the difficulty of the balance challenge can be varied throughout the balance challenge. For example, according to some example embodiments, when the band 200 is substantially tensioned, the platform has an allowable movement in either side direction (e.g., left or right side) of between about 0.25-4 inches, and wherein when the band is substantially loose without any tension when the platform P2 is generally centrally positioned above the central member CM, the platform has an allowable movement in either side direction of between about 12-35 inches. Accordingly, a plurality of tensions of the band 200 lying between substantially tensioned and loose can result in an allowable movement in either side direction between about 4-12 inches, or for example between about 4-30 inches.

[0060] According to some example embodiments, a belt or other linkage is coupled between the stabilization component 200 and the motor 400 such that rotation of the motor 400 causes rotation of the member 201, thereby either tensioning or loosening the band 300. According to some example embodiments, the engagement portions 232, 234 are substantially wave-like or undulating to define a plurality of radiused peaks and valleys, and wherein the peaks of the engagement portion 232 provide for complementary engagement with the valleys of the engagement portion 234. According to some example embodiments, the engagement portions 232, 234 are configured to permit rotation of the member 210 in one direction, regardless of whether the member 210 is actuated to disengage the engagement portions 232, 234 from each other. Optionally, the engagement portions 232, 234 can be configured as desired. According to one example form, the motor 400 and belt or other linkage that couples the motor 400 to the member 210 entirely controls the tension of the band 300, for example, such that the engagement portions 232, 234 are not necessary to prevent rotation of the member 210.

[0061] As shown in FIG. 19, the user comprises the one or more measurement devices as described above, for example, to preferably obtain measurements and the behavior of the user throughout attempting to balance on the platform P2. In example embodiments, according to some example embodiments of the present invention, one or more cameras 500 can be provided to capture motion of the user, for example, wherein one or more identifiable indicators or markersets on the user such that the one or more cameras 500 can capture the movement of the one or more indicators throughout the user balancing on the line L. For example, according to some example embodiments, a system such as OptiTrack or Optogait can be utilized to measure the movement of the user while balancing on the platform P2. Optionally, according to another example embodiment of the present invention, one or more lasers 600, or a laser array can be provided to capture movement of the user while balancing on the line L. Optionally, according to another example embodiment of the present invention, a brain scanner 700 can be provided such that the user's brain can be scanned in real time as the user attempts to balance on the platform P2. Thus, in addition to measuring the user's behavior while balancing on the platform P2, the user's brain can also be scanned throughout them balancing on the platform P2. In example embodiments, concussion patients or other people having suffered from a concussion or brain injury can be equipped with the scanner 700 when attempting to balance of the platform P2. Optionally, a user that is generally healthy and training for a particular sport can be equipped with the brain scanner 700 to determine other aspects of their mental health, for example, to understand the use of their photoreceptors (e.g., rods and cones). According to another example embodiment, the one or more cameras 500 can be configured for use with photogrammetry, for example, such that the video or still images of the user throughout balancing on the platform P2 can be utilized for understanding the measurements and behavior thereof.

[0062] According to yet another example embodiment, a camera or other measurement device is provided to track the user's eyes while balancing on the balance device. In some example embodiments, a fixation point is provided for the user to maintain their eyesight on, for example, such that the measurement device can measure and determine whether the user maintained their eyesight on the fixation point throughout the balance challenge. In example embodiments, as has been considered to be one indicator of excellent balance, the eye tracker can determine the effectiveness of a user's peripheral vision, for example, by measuring the user's eyes and their concentration on the fixation point. For example, user's who tend to keep their eyes on the fixation point and use their peripheral vision tend to have exceptional balance. Optionally, according to other example embodiments, other measurement devices can be used for tracking the user's eyes, for example, glasses comprising one or more trackers for detecting direction and movement of the user's eyes or other eye tracking technology.

[0063] According to another example embodiment, the present invention relates to a method of training on a balance device comprising providing one or more measurement devices; coupling the one or more measurement devices to a user; attempting to balance on the balance device; and measuring in real time the movement of the one or more measurement devices coupled to the user. According to example embodiments, when the balance device comprises a line L, the height position and tension of the line L can be adjusted based on a skill level of a user, for example wherein the height of the line L is at the lowest setting and the tension of the suspended line is substantially tensioned and allowing only small amounts of oscillation for a beginner user, and wherein the height of the line L is at the highest height setting and the tension of the suspended line being substantially loose and allowing substantial amounts of oscillation for an experienced user. According to some example embodiments, the method further comprises providing a stabilization component and adjusting the stabilization component to influence the allowable oscillation or side-to-side movement of the line L (or platform coupled to the line L).

[0064] While the invention has been described with reference to preferred and example embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that a variety of modifications, additions and deletions are within the scope of the invention, as defined by the following claims.

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