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Title: Human-Human Hand Interactions Aid Balance During Walking by Haptic Communication
Principles from human-human physical interaction may be necessary to design more intuitive and seamless robotic devices to aid human movement. Previous studies have shown that light touch can aid balance and that haptic communication can improve performance of physical tasks, but the effects of touch between two humans on walking balance has not been previously characterized. This study examines physical interaction between two persons when one person aids another in performing a beam-walking task. 12 pairs of healthy young adults held a force sensor with one hand while one person walked on a narrow balance beam (2 cm wide x 3.7 m long) and the other person walked overground by their side. We compare balance performance during partnered vs. solo beam-walking to examine the effects of haptic interaction, and we compare hand interaction mechanics during partnered beam-walking vs. overground walking to examine how the interaction aided balance. While holding the hand of a partner, participants were able to walk further on the beam without falling, reduce lateral sway, and decrease angular momentum in the frontal plane. We measured small hand force magnitudes (mean of 2.2 N laterally and 3.4 N vertically) that created opposing torque components about the beam axis and calculated the interaction more » torque, the overlapping opposing torque that does not contribute to motion of the beam-walker’s body. We found higher interaction torque magnitudes during partnered beam-walking vs . partnered overground walking, and correlation between interaction torque magnitude and reductions in lateral sway. To gain insight into feasible controller designs to emulate human-human physical interactions for aiding walking balance, we modeled the relationship between each torque component and motion of the beam-walker’s body as a mass-spring-damper system. Our model results show opposite types of mechanical elements (active vs . passive) for the two torque components. Our results demonstrate that hand interactions aid balance during partnered beam-walking by creating opposing torques that primarily serve haptic communication, and our model of the torques suggest control parameters for implementing human-human balance aid in human-robot interactions. « less
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Frontiers in Robotics and AI
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Objective

    This study examined the interaction of gait-synchronized vibrotactile cues with an active ankle exoskeleton that provides plantarflexion assistance.


    An exoskeleton that augments gait may support collaboration through feedback to the user about the state of the exoskeleton or characteristics of the task.


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    These findings support that the presence of torque mitigates how cues were usedmore »and highlights the importance of explicit instructions for haptic cuing. Interpreting cues while walking with an exoskeleton may increase cognitive load, influencing overall human-exoskeleton performance for novice users.


    Interactions between haptic feedback and exoskeleton use during gait can inform future feedback designs to support coordination between users and exoskeletons.

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  5. Abstract Background

    Ankle-targeting resistance training for improving plantarflexion function during walking increases rehabilitation intensity, an important factor for motor recovery after stroke. However, understanding of the effects of resisting plantarflexion during stance on joint kinetics and muscle activity—key outcomes in evaluating its potential value in rehabilitation—remains limited. This initial study uses a unilateral exosuit that resists plantarflexion during mid-late stance in unimpaired individuals to test the hypotheses that when plantarflexion is resisted, individuals would (1) increase plantarflexor ankle torque and muscle activity locally at the resisted ipsilateral ankle, but (2) at higher forces, exhibit a generalized response that also uses the unresisted joints and limb. Further, we expected (3) short-term retention into gait immediately after removal of resistance.


    Ten healthy young adults walked at 1.25 m s−1for four 10-min discrete bouts, each comprising baseline, exposure to active exosuit-applied resistance, and post-active sections. In each bout, a different force magnitude was applied based on individual baseline ankle torques. The peak resistance torque applied by the exosuit was 0.13 ± 0.01, 0.19 ± 0.01, 0.26 ± 0.02, and 0.32 ± 0.02 N m kg−1, in the LOW, MED, HIGH, and MAX bouts, respectively.


    (1) Across all bouts, participants increased peak ipsilateral biological ankle torque by 0.13–0.25 N m kg−1(p < 0.001) during exosuit-applied resistance compared to corresponding baselines. Additionally, ipsilateral soleusmore »activity during stance increased by 5.4–11.3% (p < 0.05) in all but the LOW bout. (2) In the HIGH and MAX bouts, vertical ground reaction force decreased on the ipsilateral limb while increasing on the contralateral limb (p < 0.01). Secondary analysis found that the force magnitude that maximized increases in biological ankle torque without significant changes in limb loading varied by subject. (3) Finally, peak ipsilateral plantarflexion angle increased significantly during post-exposure in the intermediate HIGH resistance bout (p < 0.05), which corresponded to the greatest average increase in soleus activity (p > 0.10).


    Targeted resistance of ankle plantarflexion during stance by an exosuit consistently increased local ipsilateral plantarflexor effort during active resistance, but force magnitude will be an important parameter to tune for minimizing the involvement of the unresisted joints and limb during training.

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