2023 journal article
Abduction/Adduction Assistance From Powered Hip Exoskeleton Enables Modulation of User Step Width During Walking
IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 1–9.
Using wearable robotics to modulate step width in normal walking for enhanced mediolateral balance has not been demonstrated in the field. We designed a bilateral hip exoskeleton with admittance control to power hip abduction and adduction to modulate step width.As the first step to show its potential, the objective of this study was to investigate how human's step width reacted to hip exoskeleton's admittance control parameter changes during walking.Ten non-disabled individuals walked on a treadmill at a self-selected speed, while wearing our bilateral robotic hip exoskeleton. We used two equilibrium positions to define the direction of assistance. We studied the influence of multiple stiffness values in the admittance control on the participants' step width, step length, and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the gluteus medius.Step width were significantly modulated by the change of stiffness in exoskeleton control, while step length did not show significant changes. When the stiffness changed from zero to our studied stiffness values, the participants' step width started to modulate immediately. Within 4 consecutive heel strikes right after a stiffness change, the step width showed a significant change. Interestingly, EMG activity of the gluteus medius did not change significantly regardless the applied stiffness and powered direction.Tuning of stiffness in admittance control of a hip exoskeleton, acting in mediolateral direction, can be a viable way for controlling step width in normal walking. Unvaried gluteus medius activity indicates that the increase in step width were mainly caused by the assistive torque applied by the exoskeleton.Our study results pave a new way for future design and control of wearable robotics in enhancing mediolateral walking balance for various rehabilitation applications.