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Reducing the energy cost of walking with low assistance levels through optimized hip flexion assistance from a soft exosuit

Cited 18 time in Web of Science Cited 24 time in Scopus

Kim, Jinsoo; Quinlivan, Brendan T.; Deprey, Lou-Ana; Revi, Dheepak Arumukhom; Eckert-Erdheim, Asa; Murphy, Patrick; Orzel, Dorothy; Walsh, Conor J.

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As we age, humans see natural decreases in muscle force and power which leads to a slower, less efficient gait. Improving mobility for both healthy individuals and those with muscle impairments/weakness has been a goal for exoskeleton designers for decades. In this work, we discover that significant reductions in the energy cost required for walking can be achieved with almost 50% less mechanical power compared to the state of the art. This was achieved by leveraging human-in-the-loop optimization to understand the importance of individualized assistance for hip flexion, a relatively unexplored joint motion. Specifically, we show that a tethered hip flexion exosuit can reduce the metabolic rate of walking by up to 15.2 +/- 2.6%, compared to locomotion with assistance turned off (equivalent to 14.8% reduction compared to not wearing the exosuit). This large metabolic reduction was achieved with surprisingly low assistance magnitudes (average of 89 N, similar to 24% of normal hip flexion torque). Furthermore, the ratio of metabolic reduction to the positive exosuit power delivered was 1.8 times higher than ratios previously found for hip extension and ankle plantarflexion. These findings motivated the design of a lightweight (2.31 kg) and portable hip flexion assisting exosuit, that demonstrated a 7.2 +/- 2.9% metabolic reduction compared to walking without the exosuit. The high ratio of metabolic reduction to exosuit power measured in this study supports previous simulation findings and provides compelling evidence that hip flexion may be an efficient joint motion to target when considering how to create practical and lightweight wearable robots to support improved mobility.
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Related Researcher

  • College of Engineering
  • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Research Area Biomechanics, Exoskeleton, Robotics, 로보틱스, 생체역학, 엑소스켈레톤


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