Autonomous assistance-as-needed control of a lower limb exoskeleton with guaranteed stability

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University of New Brunswick


Lower-limb stroke rehabilitation is physically demanding on therapists and requires the concerted effort of multiple staff members. Researchers have accordingly begun investigating the use of lower-limb exoskeletons for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, if the exoskeleton ensures the correct trajectory regardless of whether or not the user contributes effort, rehabilitation can be ineffective as the patient can begin to slack. Recent research suggests using assistance-as-needed control to facilitate functional motor recovery by only applying torques if the patient deviates too far from the desired trajectory. Assistance-as-needed control has been difficult to employ in lower-limb exoskeletons, however, due to the need to ensure stability. This work demonstrates how virtual constraint control—a method used in prostheses and assistive exoskeleton control with robust stability properties—can be combined with a velocity-modulated deadzone to ensure stability. The simulations suggest the method can accommodate a large deadzone while remaining stable across a range of gait pathologies.