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Subject-Exoskeleton Contact Model Calibration Leads to Accurate Interaction Force Predictions

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Knowledge of human–exoskeleton interaction forces is crucial to assess user comfort and effectiveness of the interaction. The subject-exoskeleton collaborative movement and its interaction forces can be predicted in silico using computational modeling techniques. We developed an optimal control framework that consisted of three phases. First, the foot-ground (Phase A) and the subject-exoskeleton (Phase B) contact models were calibrated using three experimental sit-to-stand trials. Then, the collaborative movement and the subject-exoskeleton interaction forces, of six different sit-to-stand trials were predicted (Phase C). The results show that the contact models were able to reproduce experimental kinematics of calibration trials (mean root mean square differences – RMSD – coordinates ≤ 1.1° and velocities ≤ 6.8°/s), ground reaction forces (mean RMSD≤ 22.9 N), as well as the interaction forces at the pelvis, thigh, and shank (mean RMSD ≤ 5.4 N). Phase C could predict the collaborative movements of prediction trials (mean RMSD coordinates ≤ 3.5° and velocities ≤ 15.0°/s), and their subject-exoskeleton interaction forces (mean RMSD ≤ 13.1° N). In conclusion, this optimal control framework could be used while designing exoskeletons to have in silico knowledge of new optimal movements and their interaction forces.

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