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Publication . Preprint . 2021

Optimized Hip-Knee-Ankle Exoskeleton Assistance Reduces the Metabolic Cost of Walking With Worn Loads

Gwendolyn M Bryan; Patrick Franks; Seungmoon Song; Ricardo Reyes; Meghan O’Donovan; Karen Gregorczyk; Steven Collins;
Open Access
Published: 04 Jun 2021
Publisher: Research Square Platform LLC

Abstract BackgroundLoad carriage is a typical activity in a wide range of professions, but prolonged load carriage is associated with increased fatigue and overuse injuries. Exoskeletons could improve the quality of life of these professionals by reducing metabolic cost to combat fatigue and reducing muscle activity to prevent injuries. Current exoskeletons have reduced the metabolic cost of loaded walking by up to 23% when assisting one or two joints. Greater metabolic reductions may be possible with optimized assistance of the entire leg. MethodsWe used human-in the-loop optimization to optimize hip-knee-ankle exoskeleton assistance with no additional load, a light load (15% of body weight), and a heavy load (30% of body weight) for three participants. All loads were applied through a weight vest with an attached waist belt. We measured metabolic cost, exoskeleton assistance, kinematics, and muscle activity. We performed one-tailed paired t-tests to determine significant reductions for metabolic cost and muscle activity, and we performed an analysis of variance (ANOVA) to determine significant changes across load conditions for metabolic cost and applied power. ResultsExoskeleton assistance reduced the metabolic cost of walking relative to walking in the device without assistance for all tested conditions. Exoskeleton assistance reduced the metabolic cost of walking by 47% with no load (p = 0.02), 35% with the light load (p = 0.03), and 43% with the heavy load (p = 0.02). The smaller metabolic reduction with the light load may be due to insufficient participant training or lack of optimizer convergence. The total applied positive power was similar for all tested conditions, and the positive knee power decreased slightly as load increased. Optimized torque timing parameters were consistent across participants and load conditions while optimized magnitude parameters varied. ConclusionsWhole-leg exoskeleton assistance can reduce the metabolic cost of walking while carrying a range of loads. The consistent optimized timing parameters suggest that metabolic cost reductions are sensitive to torque timing. The variable torque magnitude parameters could imply that torque magnitude should be customized to the individual, or that there is a range of useful torque magnitudes. Future work should test whether applying the load to the exoskeleton rather than the person's torso results in larger benefits.

Subjects by Vocabulary

Medical Subject Headings: human activities

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