Exoskeleton Control for Lower-Extremity Assistance Based on Adaptive Frequency Oscillators: Adaptation of Muscle Activation and Movement Frequency

SAGE Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine, 2015, 229 (1), pp. 52 - 68 (17)
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In this article, we analyze a novel strategy for assisting the lower extremities based on adaptive frequency oscillators. Our aim is to use the control algorithm presented here as a building block for the control of powered lower-limb exoskeletons. The algorithm assists cyclic movements of the human extremities by synchronizing actuator torques with the estimated net torque exerted by the muscles. Synchronization is produced by a nonlinear dynamical system combining an adaptive frequency oscillator with a form of adaptive Fourier analysis. The system extracts, in real time, the fundamental frequency component of the net muscle torque acting on a specific joint. Said component, nearly sinusoidal in shape, is the basis for the assistive torque waveform delivered by the exoskeleton. The action of the exoskeleton can be interpreted as a virtual reduction in the mechanical impedance of the leg. We studied the ability of human subjects to adapt their muscle activation to the assistive torque. Ten subjects swung their extended leg while coupled to a stationary hip joint exoskeleton. The experiment yielded a significant decrease, with respect to unassisted movement, of the activation levels of an agonist/antagonist pair of muscles controlling the hip joint’s motion, which suggests the exoskeleton control has potential for assisting human gait. A moderate increase in swing frequency was observed as well. We theorize that the increase in frequency can be explained by the impedance model of the assisted leg. Per this model, subjects adjust their swing frequency in order to control the amount of reduction in net muscle torque.
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