A motion measurement system based on inertial measurement units (IMUs) has been suggested as an alternative to contemporary video motion capture. This paper reports an investigation into the accuracy of IMUs in estimating 3D orientation during simple pendulum motion. The IMU vendor's (XSens Technologies) accuracy claim of 3 degrees root mean squared (RMS) error is tested. IMUs are integrated electronic devices that contain accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes. The motion of a pendulum swing was measured using both IMUs and video motion capture as a reference. The IMU raw data were processed by the Kalman filter algorithm supplied by the vendor and a custom fusion algorithm developed by the authors. The IMU measurement of pendulum motion using the vendor's Kalman filter algorithm did not compare well with the video motion capture with a RMS error of between 8.5 degrees and 11.7 degrees depending on the length and type of pendulum swing. The maximum orientation error was greater than 30 degrees , occurring approximately eight seconds into the motion. The custom fusion algorithm estimation of orientation compared well with the video motion capture with a RMS error of between 0.8 degrees and 1.3 degrees . Future research should concentrate on developing a general purpose fusion algorithm and vendors of IMUs should provide details about the errors to be expected in different measurement situations, not just those in a 'best case' scenario.
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