João Paulo Vilas-Boas, LABIOMEP-UP and FADEUP

Name:João Paulo Vilas-Boas
Name of the company: LABIOMEP-UP and FADEUP
Business area: Research/Science Services
Position in the company: Director/Full Professor
INESC TEC centre with which collaborated: Centre for Biomedical Engineering Research (C-BER)
Project managers (INESC TEC): Miguel Velhote Correia and João Paulo Cunha
Title of the projects: TexBoost and others

What is your professional background with INESC TEC?

I believe it started several years ago, by the hand of Professor Miguel Velhote Correia, within the scope of the spin-off Tomorrow Options, later named Kinematix. Later, we worked together on other projects with different dimensions, leading, for instance, to the development of textile electrodes for electrocardiography and electromyography and respective validation. Other examples include the development of a cable speedometer for monitoring and modelling the profile of the intracyclic variation of swimmers’ speed – preceding the creation of central inertial systems for the 3D assessment of the kinematics of swimmers and patients with neuromotor disabilities.

Along the way, Professor Miguel Velhote Correia contributed to INESC TEC’s inclusion in the list of associate institutions supporting the creation of the Porto Biomechanics Laboratory (LABIOMEP-UP), in 2012, a project supported by community funds, in which I was actively involved. Over time, Professor Miguel Velhote Correia and I improved and multiplied our collaboration actions, with him taking on his role as the head of electronics at LABIOMEP-UP. Eventually, I had the opportunity to work with Professor João Paulo Cunha, namely in the kinematic evaluation of the human movement through images, while expanding research on baropodometry and thermography, namely with neuropathic patients.

Briefly describe the main projects you have carried out in collaboration with INESC TEC.

The LABIOMEP-UP – Porto Biomechanics Laboratory, of the University of Porto – was created in 2012, in order to bring together the academia experts dedicated to studying and teaching Biomechanics, while improving R&D&I in this field. This contribution translated into the provision of unique equipment and infrastructures in Portugal, and above all, the promotion of interdisciplinary approaches emerging from the relationship between researchers from different scientific dimensions.

INESC TEC was, from the outset, a key player in the establishment of LABIOMEP-UP, immediately associating itself with the set of units and interface institutes that supported its creation. Since then, there have been several examples of collaboration between INESC TEC and LABIOMEP-UP, mainly encouraged by two of INESC TEC researchers: professors Miguel Velhote Correia and João Paulo Cunha.

Since the creation of LABIOMEP-UP, Professor Miguel Velhote Correia became a household name in electronics and biomechanics at UPorto. He became responsible for planning and implementing the LABIOMEP-UP electronics subunit, while coordinating developments in the field, within the scope of various “small” research projects – namely in the evaluation of muscle function by electrostimulation and electromyography (EMG), and in the development of central inertial systems for the kinematic assessment of human movement and the provision of feedback on rehabilitation and sports. The collaboration between the two entities, led by Professor Miguel Velhote Correia, reached a more prominent dimension lately, through the TexBoost project (Compete, Horizon 2020). This project is developed in partnership with the national textile industry, bringing together different companies in the sector and CITEVE, in addition to a national company working on devices for the biomechanical and bioelectrical evaluation of human movement: PLUX. The project resulted in the creation of two Wearable Full Body devices: one to support the dematerialisation of the production of customised sports clothing, and another to assess, control and guide athletes’ performance and training (namely cyclists, but not exclusively), integrating inertial 3D motion capture, electromyography (EMG), electrocardiography (ECG), temperature, humidity and tension sensors on clothing, focusing on the deformation of athletes’ body geometry.

Regarding Professor João Paulo Cunha, the INESC TEC-LABIOMEP-UP partnership has focused on motion capture to the kinematic evaluation of human movement, particularly regarding the validation of imaging solutions and the analysis of movement of patients with neuromotor disabilities. In the first case, the collaboration took place around the question of the validity of simple RGB-D cameras (usually used in videogame consoles, such as Kinect) for the 3D kinematic evaluation of human movement, namely gait (initiation, gait itself and changes in direction). These cameras were then used for the kinematic evaluation of gait among Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy patients; said assessment was complemented with optoelectronic motion capture, synchronised with force platforms and with EMG records. This work also explored the baropodometric and thermographic evaluation of both PAF and diabetic patients, with and without neuropathy, plantar ulcers and or amputated limbs.

What are the significant outcomes of these projects that you can highlight?

The INESC TEC-LABIOMEP-UP synergies explored thus far have been particularly successful, resulting in potential patents, Master’s and PhD theses, and several indexed publications.

What is your opinion on your experience working with INESC TEC?

Excellent, but less vast than I would appreciate.

What is the possibility of future collaborations with INESC TEC?

We have defined the path, but there is still much to do – by these and other INESC TEC researchers dedicated to human or animal biomechanics, for sports-related, clinical or occupational purposes. LABIOMEP-UP has access to equipment and human resources necessary to promote initiatives in these fields, and the Direction Board believes in the superior value of interdisciplinarity and the sharing of skills, towards advancing knowledge and promoting innovation.

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