Advanced, Flexible and Versatile, 3D Electromagnetic Tracking and Positioning System (Case 1780)

Principal Investigator:


Harvey Silverman, PhD, Professor

School of Engineering

Brown University

Providence, RI


Brief Description:


A typical system for determining the position and orientation of a remote object includes, most simply, a receiver with three receiver coils and a transmitter with three transmitter coils in various orientations to one another to generate electromagnetic fields defining a reference coordinate system.  Voltages are induced, measured and summed; the measured values of the induced voltages are used to indicate position and orientation of the remote object relative to reference coordinates defined by the electromagnetic fields.  Designing such a system is challenging in terms of: separating signals to determine individual amplitudes and without connection from the transmitter clock source to the receiver to reduce cost and connectivity; generating transmitter electromagnetic fields that are affordable and tolerant to component variations (manufacturing tolerance, aging, temperature change); providing a flexible mechanism to combine any receiver and transmitter without prior calibrations; and compacting transmitter coils for specific applications without compromising generation of electromagnetic fields that define 2- or 3-dimensional coordinate systems.  These challenges warrant practical solutions.  Hence, an improved system – the novel invention offered here – is desirable and available.


The invention is an improved electromagnetic tracking system and method to determine the electromagnetic position and orientation of a remote object.  The magnetic tracking system includes a stationary transmitter to establish a reference coordinate system and at least one receiver.  The remote object is attached/mounted/coupled to the receiver.  The transmitter includes a set of three mutually perpendicular coils having a common center point, or a set of three coplanar coils with separate centers.  The receiver includes a set of three orthogonal coils.  The position and orientation of the receiver with remote object is determined by measuring the nine mutual inductances between the three transmitter coils and the three receiver coils.  There are a plethora of embodiments/configurations for flexibility and versatility depending on application.  Advantages of this innovative magnetic tracking system, over current state-of-the-art systems, is reduced power consumption, increased efficiency, digital compensation for component variation, automatic self-calibration ‘on-the-fly’ or in manufacture, automatic synchronization with no connections between transmitter and receiver, and rapid low-cost implementation.


This broadly applicable technology is amenable to a great number of uses, products and markets, wherever knowing/tracking a position is necessary.  Applications include, but are not limited to, general navigation/GPS (ship, car, plane, train, satellite, spaceship, etc.), invasive and non-invasive surgical systems to guide catheters, micro-scalpels/surgeries in many fields of medicine (orthopedics, neurosurgery, interventional radiology/cardiology), tracking and placement in the body of a targeted and/or implantable therapeutic/diagnostic with a drug delivery vehicle, virtual reality/holographic applications to orient users/gamers, and use in basic scientific experiments in many R&D fields.


Markets are equally diverse and abundant in the scientific, commercial and military segments:  entertainment - video/virtual reality games; pharmaceutical – therapeutics/diagnostics/medical devices and instruments; transportation - automotive; nautical/boating - aircraft/space/aeronautics -; and scientific/biomedical R&D in aeronautical engineering, microelectronics/nanotechnology, drug discovery and development, engineering/sensors/electromagnetic fields, among many other fields, to advance knowledge and the art.




US patent 8,723,509 is issued (05/13/2014)

US patent 8,450,997 is issued (05/28/2013)

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Harvey Silverman
William Patterson Iii
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