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  1. Abstract Series elastic actuators (SEAs) are increasingly popular in wearable robotics due to their high fidelity closed-loop torque control capability. Therefore, it has become increasingly important to characterize its performance when used in dynamic environments. However, the conventional design approach does not fully capture the complexity of the entire exoskeleton system. These limitations stem from identifying design criteria with inadequate biomechanics data, utilizing an off-the-shelf user interface, and applying a benchtop-based proportional-integral-derivative control for actual low-level torque tracking. While this approach shows decent actuator performance, it does not consider human factors such as the dynamic back-driving nature of human-exoskeleton systems as well as soft human tissue dampening during the load transfer. Using holistic design guidelines to improve the SEA-based exoskeleton performance during dynamic locomotion, our final system has an overall mass of 4.8 kg (SEA mass of 1.1 kg) and can provide a peak joint torque of 108 Nm with a maximum velocity of 5.2 rad/s. Additionally, we present a user state-based feedforward controller to further improve the low-level torque tracking for diverse walking conditions. Our study results provide future exoskeleton designers with a foundation to further improve SEA-based exoskeleton’s torque tracking response for maximizing human-exoskeleton performance during dynamic locomotion.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  2. Step length is a critical gait parameter that allows a quantitative assessment of gait asymmetry. Gait asymmetry can lead to many potential health threats such as joint degeneration, difficult balance control, and gait inefficiency. Therefore, accurate step length estimation is essential to understand gait asymmetry and provide appropriate clinical interventions or gait training programs. The conventional method for step length measurement relies on using foot-mounted inertial measurement units (IMUs). However, this may not be suitable for real-world applications due to sensor signal drift and the potential obtrusiveness of using distal sensors. To overcome this challenge, we propose a deep convolutional neural network-based step length estimation using only proximal wearable sensors (hip goniometer, trunk IMU, and thigh IMU) capable of generalizing to various walking speeds. To evaluate this approach, we utilized treadmill data collected from sixteen able-bodied subjects at different walking speeds. We tested our optimized model on the overground walking data. Our CNN model estimated the step length with an average mean absolute error of 2.89 ± 0.89 cm across all subjects and walking speeds. Since wearable sensors and CNN models are easily deployable in real-time, our study findings can provide personalized real-time step length monitoring in wearable assistive devicesmore »and gait training programs.« less