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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  2. 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. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  3. Mobility disabilities are prominent in society with wide-ranging deficits, motivating modular, partial-assist, lower-limb exoskeletons for this heterogeneous population. This paper introduces the Modular Backdrivable Lower-limb Unloading Exoskeleton (M-BLUE), which implements high torque, low mechanical impedance actuators on commercial orthoses with sheet metal modifications to produce a variety of hip- and/or knee-assisting configurations. Benchtop system identification verifies the desirable backdrive properties of the actuator, and allows for torque prediction within 0.4 Nm. An able-bodied human subject experiment demonstrates that three unilateral configurations of M-BLUE (hip only, knee only, and hip-knee) with a simple gravity compensation controller can reduce muscle EMG readings in a lifting and lowering task relative to the bare condition. Reductions in mean muscular effort and peak muscle activation were seen across the primary squat musculature (excluding biceps femoris), demonstrating the potential to reduce fatigue leading to poor lifting posture. These promising results motivate applications of M-BLUE to additional populations, and the expansion of M-BLUE to bilateral and ankle configurations. 
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  4. 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. 
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  5. This paper presents a method to design a nonholonomic virtual constraint (NHVC) controller that produces multiple distinct stance-phase trajectories for corresponding walking speeds. NHVCs encode velocity-dependent joint trajectories via momenta conjugate to the unactuated degree(s)-of-freedom of the system. We recently introduced a method for designing NHVCs that allow for stable bipedal robotic walking across variable terrain slopes. This work extends the notion of NHVCs for application to variable-cadence powered prostheses. Using the segmental conjugate momentum for the prosthesis, an optimization problem is used to design a single stance-phase NHVC for three distinct walking speed trajectories (slow, normal, and fast). This stance-phase controller is implemented with a holonomic swing phase controller on a powered knee-ankle prosthesis, and experiments are conducted with an able-bodied user walking in steady and non-steady velocity conditions. The control scheme is capable of representing 1) multiple, task-dependent reference trajectories, and 2) walking gait variance due to both temporal and kinematic changes in user motion. 
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  6. Abstract This paper explores new ways to use energy shaping and regulation methods in walking systems to generate new passive-like gaits and dynamically transition between them. We recapitulate a control framework for Lagrangian hybrid systems, and show that regulating a state varying energy function is equivalent to applying energy shaping and regulating the system to a constant energy value. We then consider a simple one-dimensional hopping robot and show how energy shaping and regulation control can be used to generate and transition between nearly globally stable hopping limit cycles. The principles from this example are then applied on two canonical walking models, the spring loaded inverted pendulum (SLIP) and compass gait biped, to generate and transition between locomotive gaits. These examples show that piecewise jumps in control parameters can be used to achieve stable changes in desired gait characteristics dynamically/online. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    This paper presents the design and validation of a backdrivable powered knee orthosis for partial assistance of lower-limb musculature, which aims to facilitate daily activities in individuals with musculoskeletal disorders. The actuator design is guided by design principles that prioritize backdrivability, output torque, and compactness. First, we show that increasing the motor diameter while reducing the gear ratio for a fixed output torque ultimately reduces the reflected inertia (and thus backdrive torque). We also identify a tradeoff with actuator torque density that can be addressed by improving the motor's thermal environment, motivating our design of a custom Brushless DC motor with encapsulated windings. Finally, by designing a 7:1 planetary gearset directly into the stator, the actuator has a high package factor that reduces size and weight. Benchtop tests verify that the custom actuator can produce at least 23.9 Nm peak torque and 12.78 Nm continuous torque, yet has less than 2.68 Nm backdrive torque during walking conditions. Able-bodied human subjects experiments (N=3) demonstrate reduced quadriceps activation with bilateral orthosis assistance during lifting-lowering, sit-to-stand, and stair climbing. The minimal transmission also produces negligible acoustic noise. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    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 on small signal assumptions allows us to explain the relationship between our tuning parameters and the frequency domain amplification bandwidth. 
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