Active-Impedance Control of a Lower-Limb Assistive Exoskeleton

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Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE 10th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, 2007, pp. 188 - 195
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We propose a novel control method for lower-limb assist that produces a virtual modification of the mechanical impedance of the human limbs. This effect is accomplished by making the exoskeleton display active impedance properties. Active impedance control emphasizes control of the exoskeleton's dynamics and regulation of the transfer of energy between the exoskeleton and the user. Its goal is improving the dynamic response of the human limbs without sacrificing the user's control authority. The proposed method is an alternative to myoelectrical exoskeleton control, which is based on estimating muscle torques from electromyographical (EMG) activity. Implementation of an EMG-based controller is a complex task that involves modeling the user's musculoskeletal system and requires recalibration. In contrast, active impedance control is less dependent on estimation of the user's attempted motion, thereby avoiding conflicts resulting from inaccurate estimation. In this paper we also introduce a new form of human assist based on improving the kinematic response of the limbs. Reduction of average muscle torques is a common goal of research in human assist. However, less emphasis has been placed so far on improving the user's agility of motion. We aim to use active impedance control to attain such effects as increasing the user's average speed of motion, and improving their acceleration capabilities in order to compensate for perturbations from the environment.
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