Date of Original Version
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Abstract or Description
Lower-limb exoskeletons capable of comfortably applying high torques at high bandwidth can be used to probe the human neuromuscular system and assist gait. We designed and built two tethered ankle exoskeletons with strong lightweight frames, comfortable three-point contact with the leg, and series elastic elements for improved torque control. Both devices have low mass (<; 0.88 kg), are modular, structurally compliant in selected directions, and instrumented to measure joint angle and torque. The exoskeletons are actuated by an off-board motor, and torque is controlled using a combination of proportional feedback and damping injection with iterative learning during walking tests. We tested closed-loop torque control by commanding 50 N·m and 20 N·m linear chirps in desired torque while the exoskeletons were worn by human users, and measured bandwidths greater than 16 Hz and 21 Hz, respectively. During walking trials, we demonstrated 120 N·m peak torque and 2.0 N·m RMS torque tracking error. These performance measures compare favorably with existing devices and with human ankle musculature, and show that these exoskeletons can be used to rapidly explore a wide range of control techniques and robotic assistance paradigms as elements of versatile, high-performance testbeds. Our results also provide insights into desirable properties of lower-limb exoskeleton hardware, which we expect to inform future designs.
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015, 1223-1228.