Design of a Wearable Perturbator for Human Knee Impedance Estimation during Gait
Mechanical impedance modulation is the key to natural, stable and efficient human locomotion. An improved understanding of this mechanism is necessary for the development of the next generation of intelligent prosthetic and orthotic devices. This paper documents the design methodologies that were employed to realize a knee perturbator that can experimentally estimate human knee impedance during gait through the application of angular velocity perturbations. The proposed experiment requires a light, transparent, wearable, and remotely actuated device that closely follows the movement of the biological joint. A genetic algorithm was used to design a polycentric hinge whose instantaneous center of rotation is optimized to be kinematically compatible with the human knee. A wafer disc clutch was designed to switch between a high transparency passive mode and a high impedance actuated mode. A remote actuation and transmission scheme was designed to enable high power output perturbations while minimizing the device’s mass. Position and torque sensors were designed for device control and to provide data for post-processing and joint impedance estimation. Pending the fabrication and mechanical testing of the device, we expect this knee perturbator to be a valuable tool for experimental investigation of locomotive joint impedance modulation.