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Bio-inspired Balance Control Assistance Can Reduce Metabolic Energy Consumption In Human Walking

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The amount of research on developing exoskeletons for human gait assistance has been growing in the recent years. However, the control design of exoskeletons for assisting human walking remains unclear. This paper presents a novel bio-inspired reflex-based control for assisting human walking. In this approach, the leg force is used as a feedback signal to adjust hip compliance. The effects of modulating hip compliance on walking gait is investigated through joint kinematics, leg muscle activations and overall metabolic costs for eight healthy young subjects. Reduction in the average metabolic cost and muscle activation are achieved with fixed hip compliance. Compared to the fixed hip compliance, improved assistance as reflected in more consistent reduction in muscle activities and more natural kinematic behaviour are obtained using the leg force feedback. Furthermore, smoother motor torques and less peak power are two additional advantages obtained by compliance modulation. The results show that the proposed control method which is inspired by human posture control can not only facilitate the human gait, but also reduce the exoskeleton power consumption. This demonstrates that the proposed bio-inspired controller allows a synergistic interaction between human and robot.

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