Body feedback could make assisted walking easier

"We think [this approach] will dramatically improve energy economy, speed, and balance for millions of people, especially those with disabilities."

Researchers are using feedback from the human body to develop designs for exoskeletons and prosthetic limbs.

The work, called human-in-the-loop optimization, lessens the amount of energy needed for walking with exoskeleton assistance or prosthetic limbs.

“…the biggest challenge has remained the human element…”

“Existing exoskeleton devices, despite their potential, have not improved walking performance as much as we think they should,” says Steven Collins, a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“We’ve seen improvements related to computing, hardware, and sensors, but the biggest challenge has remained the human element—we just haven’t been able to guess how they will respond to new devices,” he says.

The algorithm that enables this optimization represents a step forward in the field of biomechatronics. The software algorithm is combined with versatile emulator hardware that automatically identifies optimal assistance strategies for individuals.

During experiments, each user received a unique pattern of assistance from an exoskeleton worn on one ankle. The algorithm tested responses to 32 patterns over the course of an hour, making adjustments based on measurements of the user’s energy use with each pattern.

The optimized assistance pattern produced larger benefits than any exoskeleton to date, including devices acting at all joints on both legs.

“When we walk, we naturally optimize coordination patterns for energy efficiency,” Collins says. “Human-in-the-loop optimization acts in a similar way to optimize the assistance provided by wearable devices.

“We are really excited about this approach because we think it will dramatically improve energy economy, speed, and balance for millions of people, especially those with disabilities,” Collins adds.

A paper describing the research appears in the journal Science.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

The post Body feedback could make assisted walking easier appeared first on Futurity.

More from Futurity

Futurity2 min read
How To Prep For (and Recover From) Natural Disasters
In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which the National Weather Service called one of the most powerful to make landfall in modern history, two experts discuss how to prepare for—and recover from—a storm. The hurricane’s 185 mph winds and rampant floodin
Futurity3 min readScience
Method Treats Chronic Neuropathic Pain Without Surgery
Researchers have come up with an effective, minimally invasive way to treat the intractable and growing problem of chronic neuropathic pain. “Our preclinical research findings suggest an entirely new procedure and novel target in the brain to allevia
Futurity3 min readPsychology
Robotic Fish Predator Strikes Fear Into Invasive Species
Robotic fish can be a valuable tool in the fight against one of the world’s most problematic invasive species, the mosquitofish, researchers report. Invasive species control is notoriously challenging, especially in lakes and rivers where native fish