Journal article

Control approaches for robotic knee exoskeleton and their effects on human motion

In this paper we compare three noninvasive control methods for a robotic knee exoskeleton and asses their kinematic influences on the repetitive squatting motions of able-bodied human subjects. The motion of the subjects wearing the knee exoskeleton was also compared to the motion of the subjects performing the same task without using the assistance of the knee exoskeleton. We chose the squatting motion because it approximates common movements with high metabolic cost, such as standing up from a chair and ascending or descending the stairs. Beside the two classical robotic control approaches, i.e. the position control and the gravity compensation, we propose a method that is based on a single adaptive frequency oscillator combined with an adaptive Fourier series in a feedback loop. The method can extract frequency and phase of an arbitrary periodic signal in real-time. This method is particularly appropriate for controlling novel robotic assisting devices since it does not require complex signal sensing or user calibration. The results show that the total knee torque was increased while using the exoskeleton device compared to the squatting without the assistance of the exoskeleton device. In effect, there were significant kinematic adaptations observed when the exoskleton device assisted the motion of the subjects. However, no significant kinematic differences were found between different control methods. We conclude that an assistive device can augment the abilities of the able-bodied humans in the targeted joints (i.e. the joints provided with additional mechanical power) but, on the other hand, significantly alters whole body kinematics.


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