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- Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision Control
- Medium: X
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- National Science Foundation
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This paper presents the design and implementation of a novel multi-activity control strategy for a backdrivable knee-ankle exoskeleton. Traditionally, exoskeletons have used trajectory-based control of highly geared actuators for complete motion assistance. In contrast, we develop a potential energy shaping controller with ground reaction force (GRF) feedback that facilitates multi-activity assistance from a backdrivable exoskeleton without prescribing pre-defined kinematics. Although potential energy shaping was previously implemented in an exoskeleton to reduce the user’s perceived gravity, this model-based approach assumes the stance leg is fully loaded with the weight of the user, resulting in excessive control torques as weight transfers to the contralateral leg during double support. The presented approach uses GRF feedback to taper the torque control output for any activity involving multiple supports, leading to a closer match with normative joint moments in simulations based on pre-recorded human data during level walking. To implement this strategy, we present a custom foot force sensor that provides GRF feedback to the previously designed exoskeleton. Finally, results from an able-bodied human subject experiment demonstrate that the exoskeleton is able to reduce muscular activation of the primary muscles related to the knee and ankle joints during sit-to-stand, stand-to-sit, level walking, and stair climbing.more » « less
null (Ed.)Powered ankle exoskeletons that apply assistive torques with optimized timing and magnitude can reduce metabolic cost by ∼10% compared to normal walking. However, finding individualized optimal control parameters is time consuming and must be done independently for different walking modes (e.g., speeds, slopes). Thus, there is a need for exoskeleton controllers that are capable of continuously adapting torque assistance in concert with changing locomotor demands. One option is to use a biologically inspired, model-based control scheme that can capture the adaptive behavior of the human plantarflexors during natural gait. Here, based on previously demonstrated success in a powered ankle-foot prosthesis, we developed an ankle exoskeleton controller that uses a neuromuscular model (NMM) comprised of a Hill type musculotendon driven by a simple positive force feedback reflex loop. To examine the effects of NMM reflex parameter settings on (i) ankle exoskeleton mechanical performance and (ii) users’ physiological response, we recruited nine healthy, young adults to walk on a treadmill at a fixed speed of 1.25 m/s while donning bilateral tethered robotic ankle exoskeletons. To quantify exoskeleton mechanics, we measured exoskeleton torque and power output across a range of NMM controller Gain (0.8–2.0) and Delay (10–40 ms) settings, as well as a High Gain/High Delay (2.0/40 ms) combination. To quantify users’ physiological response, we compared joint kinematics and kinetics, ankle muscle electromyography and metabolic rate between powered and unpowered/zero-torque conditions. Increasing NMM controller reflex Gain caused increases in average ankle exoskeleton torque and net power output, while increasing NMM controller reflex Delay caused a decrease in net ankle exoskeleton power output. Despite systematic reduction in users’ average biological ankle moment with exoskeleton mechanical assistance, we found no NMM controller Gain or Delay settings that yielded changes in metabolic rate. Post hoc analyses revealed weak association at best between exoskeleton and biological mechanics and changes in users’ metabolic rate. Instead, changes in users’ summed ankle joint muscle activity with powered assistance correlated with changes in their metabolic energy use, highlighting the potential to utilize muscle electromyography as a target for on-line optimization in next generation adaptive exoskeleton controllers.more » « less
Task-specific, trajectory-based control methods commonly used in exoskeletons may be appropriate for individuals with paraplegia, but they overly constrain the volitional motion of individuals with remnant voluntary ability (representing a far larger population). Human-exoskeleton systems can be represented in the form of the Euler-Lagrange equations or, equivalently, the port-controlled Hamiltonian equations to design control laws that provide task-invariant assistance across a continuum of activities/environments by altering energetic properties of the human body. We previously introduced a port-controlled Hamiltonian framework that parameterizes the control law through basis functions related to gravitational and gyroscopic terms, which are optimized to fit normalized able-bodied joint torques across multiple walking gaits on different ground inclines. However, this approach did not have the flexibility to reproduce joint torques for a broader set of activities, including stair climbing and stand-to-sit, due to strict assumptions related to input-output passivity, which ensures the human remains in control of energy growth in the closed-loop dynamics. To provide biomimetic assistance across all primary activities of daily life, this paper generalizes this energy shaping framework by incorporating vertical ground reaction forces and global planar orientation into the basis set, while preserving passivity between the human joint torques and human joint velocities. We present an experimental implementation on a powered knee-ankle exoskeleton used by three able-bodied human subjects during walking on various inclines, ramp ascent/descent, and stand-to-sit, demonstrating the versatility of this control approach and its effect on muscular effort.more » « less
Task-dependent controllers widely used in exoskeletons track predefined trajectories, which overly constrain the volitional motion of individuals with remnant voluntary mobility. Energy shaping, on the other hand, provides task-invariant assistance by altering the human body's dynamic characteristics in the closed loop. While human-exoskeleton systems are often modeled using Euler-Lagrange equations, in our previous work we modeled the system as a port-controlled-Hamiltonian system, and a task-invariant controller was designed for a knee-ankle exoskeleton using interconnection-damping assignment passivity-based control. In this paper, we extend this framework to design a controller for a backdrivable hip exoskeleton to assist multiple tasks. A set of basis functions that contains information of kinematics is selected and corresponding coefficients are optimized, which allows the controller to provide torque that fits normative human torque for different activities of daily life. Human-subject experiments with two able-bodied subjects demonstrated the controller's capability to reduce muscle effort across different tasks.more » « less
Maintaining upright posture is an unstable task that requires sophisticated neuro-muscular control. Humans use foot–ground interaction forces, characterized by point of application, magnitude, and direction to manage body accelerations. When analyzing the directions of the ground reaction forces of standing humans in the frequency domain, previous work found a consistent pattern in different frequency bands. To test whether this frequency-dependent behavior provided a distinctive signature of neural control or was a necessary consequence of biomechanics, this study simulated quiet standing and compared the results with human subject data.
Aiming to develop the simplest competent and neuromechanically justifiable dynamic model that could account for the pattern observed across multiple subjects, we first explored the minimum number of degrees of freedom required for the model. Then, we applied a well-established optimal control method that was parameterized to maximize physiologically-relevant insight to stabilize the balancing model.
If a standing human was modeled as a single inverted pendulum, no controller could reproduce the experimentally observed pattern. The simplest competent model that approximated a standing human was a double inverted pendulum with torque-actuated ankle and hip joints. A range of controller parameters could stabilize this model and reproduce the general trend observed in experimental data; this result seems to indicate a biomechanical constraint and not a consequence of control. However, details of the frequency-dependent pattern varied substantially across tested control parameter values. The set of parameters that best reproduced the human experimental results suggests that the control strategy employed by human subjects to maintain quiet standing was best described by minimal control effort with an emphasis on ankle torque.
The findings suggest that the frequency-dependent pattern of ground reaction forces observed in quiet standing conveys quantitative information about human control strategies. This study’s method might be extended to investigate human neural control strategies in different contexts of balance, such as with an assistive device or in neurologically impaired subjects.