Accuracy of an electromagnetic tracking device: a study of the optimal range and metal interference

J Biomech. 1996 Jun;29(6):791-3. doi: 10.1016/0021-9290(96)83335-5.


The positional and rotational accuracy of a direct-current magnetic tracking device commonly used in biomechanical investigations was evaluated. The effect of different metals was also studied to determine the possibility of interference induced by experimental test fixtures or orthopaedic implants within the working field. Positional and rotational data were evaluated for accuracy and resolution by comparing the device output to known motions as derived from a calibrated grid board or materials testing machine. The effect of different metals was evaluated by placing cylindrical metal samples at set locations throughout the working field and comparing the device readings before and after introducing each metal sample. Positional testing revealed an optimal operational range with the transmitter and receiver separation between 22.5 and 64.0 cm. Within this range the mean positional error was found to be 1.8 percent of the step size, and resolution was determined to be 0.25 mm. The mean rotational error over a 1-20 degree range was found to be 1.6% of the rotational increment with a rotational resolution of 0.1 degrees. Of the metal alloys tested only mild steel produced significant interference, which was maximum when the sample was placed adjacent to the receiver. At this location the mild steel induced a positional difference of 5.26 cm and an angular difference of 9.75 degrees. The device was found to be insensitive to commonly used orthopaedic alloys. In this study, the electromagnetic tracking device was found to have positional and rotational errors of less than 2 percent, when utilized within its optimal operating range. This accuracy combined with its insensitivity to orthopaedic alloys should make it suitable for a variety of musculoskeletal research investigations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alloys
  • Artifacts
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Calibration
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Materials Testing / instrumentation
  • Metals
  • Movement
  • Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Rotation
  • Steel
  • Telemetry / instrumentation*


  • Alloys
  • Metals
  • Steel