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  1. 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 interactionmore »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
  2. Modeling individual-specific gait dynamics based on kinematic data could aid development of gait rehabilitation robotics by enabling robots to predict the user’s gait kinematics with and without external inputs, such as mechanical or electrical perturbations. Here we address a current limitation of data driven gait models, which do not yet predict human responses to perturbations. We used Switched Linear Dynamical Systems (SLDS) to model joint angle kinematic data from healthy individuals walking on a treadmill during normal gait and during gait perturbed by functional electrical stimulation (FES) to the ankle muscles. Our SLDS models were able to predict the time-evolution of joint kinematics in each of four gait phases, as well as across an entire gait cycle. Because the SLDS dynamics matrices encoded significant coupling across joints, we compared the SLDS predictions to that of a kinematic model, where the joint angles were independent. Gait kinematics predicted by SLDS and kinematic models were similar over time horizons of a few milliseconds, but SLDS models provided better predictions of gait kinematics over time horizons of up to a second. We also demonstrated that SLDS models can infer and predict individual-specific responses to FES during swing phase. As such, SLDS models maymore »be a promising approach for online estimation and control of and human gait dynamics, allowing robotic control strategies to be tailored to an individual’s specific gait coordination patterns.« less
  3. Human-robot interaction (HRI) for gait rehabilitation would benefit from models of data-driven gait models that account for gait phases and gait dynamics. Here we address the current limitation in gait models driven by kinematic data, which do not model interlimb gait dynamics and have not been shown to precisely identify gait events. We used Switched Linear Dynamical Systems (SLDS) to model joint angle kinematic data from healthy individuals walking on a treadmill with normal gaits and with gaits perturbed by electrical stimulation. We compared the model-inferred gait phases to gait phases measured externally via a force plate. We found that SLDS models accounted for over 88% of the variation in each joint angle and labeled the joint kinematics with the correct gait phase with 84% precision on average. The transitions between hidden states matched measured gait events, with a median absolute difference of 25ms. To our knowledge, this is the first time that SLDS inferred gait phases have been validated by an external measure of gait, instead of against predefined gait phase durations. SLDS provide individual-specific representations of gait that incorporate both gait phases and gait dynamics. SLDS may be useful for developing control policies for HRI aimed at improvingmore »gait by allowing for changes in control to be precisely timed to different gait phases.« less