Active Compliance Control Reduces Upper Body Effort in Exoskeleton-Supported Walking
IEEE This article presents a locomotion controller for lower limb exoskeletons so as to enable the combined robot and user system to exhibit compliant walking characteristics when interacting with the environment. This is of critical importance to reduce the excessive ground reaction forces during the walking task execution with the aim of improved environmental interaction capabilities. In robot-aided walking support for paraplegics, the user has to actively use his/her upper limbs via crutches to ensure overall balance. By virtue of this requisite, several issues may particularly arise during touchdown instants, e.g., upper body orientation fluctuates, shoulder joints are subject to excessive loading, and arms may need to exert extra forces to counterbalance these effects. In order to reduce the upper body effort via compliant locomotion, the controller is designed to manage the force/position tradeoff by using an admittance controller in each joint. For proof of concept, a series of exoskeleton-aided walking experiments were conducted with the participation of nine healthy volunteers, four of whom additionally walked on an irregular surface for further performance evaluation. The results suggest that the proposed locomotion controller is advantageous over conventional high-gain position tracking in decreasing undesired oscillatory torso motion and total arm force, adequately reducing the required upper body effort.