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Phys Med Biol. 2003 Jul 21;48(14):2241-51.

Accuracy assessment protocols for electromagnetic tracking systems.

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  • 1Northern Digital, Inc, 103 Randall Drive, Waterloo, Ontario N2V 1C5, Canada.


Electromagnetic tracking systems have found increasing use in medical applications during the last few years. As with most non-trivial spatial measurement systems, the complex determination of positions and orientations from their underlying raw sensor measurements results in complicated, non-uniform error distributions over the specified measurement volume. This makes it difficult to unambiguously determine accuracy and performance assessments that allow users to judge the suitability of these systems for their particular needs. Various assessment protocols generally emphasize different measurement aspects that typically arise in clinical use. This can easily lead to inconclusive or even contradictory conclusions. We examine some of the major issues involved and discuss three useful calibration protocols. The measurement accuracy of a system can be described in terms of its 'trueness' and its 'precision'. Often, the two are strongly coupled and cannot be easily determined independently. We present a method that allows the two to be disentangled, so that the resultant trueness properly represents the systematic, non-reducible part of the measurement error, and the resultant precision (or repeatability) represents only the statistical, reducible part. Although the discussion is given largely within the context of electromagnetic tracking systems, many of the results are applicable to measurement systems in general.

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