Effects of Robotic Knee Exoskeleton on Human Energy Expenditure
A number of studies discuss the design and control of various exoskeleton mechanisms, yet relatively few address the effect on the energy expenditure of the user. In this paper, we discuss the effect of a performance augmenting exoskeleton on the metabolic cost of an able-bodied user/pilot during periodic squatting. We investigated whether an exoskeleton device will significantly reduce the metabolic cost and what is the influence of the chosen device control strategy. By measuring oxygen consumption, minute ventilation, heart rate, blood oxygenation, and muscle EMG during 5-min squatting series, at one squat every 2 s, we show the effects of using a prototype robotic knee exoskeleton under three different noninvasive control approaches: gravity compensation approach, position-based approach, and a novel oscillator-based approach. The latter proposes a novel control that ensures synchronization of the device and the user. Statistically significant decrease in physiological responses can be observed when using the robotic knee exoskeleton under gravity compensation and oscillator-based control. On the other hand, the effects of position-based control were not significant in all parameters although all approaches significantly reduced the energy expenditure during squatting.