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  1. Natural dynamics, nonlinear optimization, and, more recently, convex optimization are available methods for stiffness design of energy-efficient series elastic actuators. Natural dynamics and general nonlinear optimization only work for a limited set of load kinetics and kinematics, cannot guarantee convergence to a global optimum, or depend on initial conditions to the numerical solver. Convex programs alleviate these limitations and allow a global solution in polynomial time, which is useful when the space of optimization variables grows (e.g., when designing optimal nonlinear springs or co-designing spring, controller, and reference trajectories). Our previous work introduced the stiffness design of series elastic actuators via convex optimization when the transmission dynamics are negligible, which is an assumption that applies mostly in theory or when the actuator uses a direct or quasi-direct drive. In this work, we extend our analysis to include friction at the transmission. Coulomb friction at the transmission results in a non-convex expression for the energy dissipated as heat, but we illustrate a convex approximation for stiffness design. We experimentally validated our framework using a series elastic actuator with specifications similar to the knee joint of the Open Source Leg, an open-source robotic knee-ankle prosthesis.
  2. In this work, we introduce a novel approach to assistive exoskeleton (or powered orthosis) control which avoids needing task and gait phase information. Our approach is based on directly designing the Hamiltonian dynamics of the target closed-loop behavior, shaping the energy of the human and the robot. Relative to previous energy shaping controllers for assistive exoskeletons, we introduce ground reaction force and torque information into the target behavior definition, reformulate the kinematics so as to avoid explicit matching conditions due to under-actuation, and avoid the need to switch between swing and stance energy shapes. Our controller introduces new states into the target Hamiltonian energy that represent a virtual second leg that is connected to the physical leg using virtual springs. The impulse the human imparts to the physical leg is amplified and applied to the virtual leg, but the ground reaction force acts only on the physical leg. A state transformation allows the proposed control to be available using only encoders, an IMU, and ground reaction force sensors. We prove that this controller is stable and passive when acted on by the ground reaction force and demonstrate the controller's strength amplifying behavior in a simulation. A linear analysis based onmore »small signal assumptions allows us to explain the relationship between our tuning parameters and the frequency domain amplification bandwidth.« less