MEMTRACK: A Deep Learning-Based Approach to Microrobot Tracking in Dense and Low-Contrast Environments.

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Tracking microrobots is challenging, considering their minute size and high speed. As the field progresses towards developing microrobots for biomedical applications and conducting mechanistic studies in physiologically relevant media (e.g., collagen), this challenge is exacerbated by the dense surrounding environments with feature size and shape comparable to microrobots. Herein, we report Motion Enhanced Multi-level Tracker (MEMTrack), a robust pipeline for detecting and tracking microrobots using synthetic motion features, deep learning-based object detection, and a modified Simple Online and Real-time Tracking (SORT) algorithm with interpolation for tracking. Our object detection approach combines different models based on the object’s motion pattern. We trained and validated our model using bacterial micro-motors in collagen (tissue phantom) and tested it in collagen and aqueous media. We demonstrate that MEMTrack accurately tracks even the most challenging bacteria missed by skilled human annotators, achieving precision and recall of 77% and 48% in collagen and 94% and 35% in liquid media, respectively. Moreover, we show that MEMTrack can quantify average bacteria speed with no statistically significant difference from the laboriously-produced manual tracking data. MEMTrack represents a significant contribution to microrobot localization and tracking, and opens the potential for vision-based deep learning approaches to microrobot control in dense and low-contrast settings. All source code for training and testing MEMTrack and reproducing the results of the paper have been made publicly available