An experimental comparison of the relative benefits of work and torque assistance in ankle exoskeletons

Journal of Applied Physiology
Rachel W Jackson, Steven H Collins

Abstract

Techniques proposed for assisting locomotion with exoskeletons have often included a combination of active work input and passive torque support, but the physiological effects of different assistance techniques remain unclear. We performed an experiment to study the independent effects of net exoskeleton work and average exoskeleton torque on human locomotion. Subjects wore a unilateral ankle exoskeleton and walked on a treadmill at 1.25 m·s(-1) while net exoskeleton work rate was systematically varied from -0.054 to 0.25 J·kg(-1)·s(-1), with constant (0.12 N·m·kg(-1)) average exoskeleton torque, and while average exoskeleton torque was systematically varied from approximately zero to 0.18 N·m·kg(-1), with approximately zero net exoskeleton work. We measured metabolic rate, center-of-mass mechanics, joint mechanics, and muscle activity. Both techniques reduced effort-related measures at the assisted ankle, but this form of work input reduced metabolic cost (-17% with maximum net work input) while this form of torque support increased metabolic cost (+13% with maximum average torque). Disparate effects on metabolic rate seem to be due to cascading effects on whole body coordination, particularly related to assisted ankle muscle ...Continue Reading

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