A Soft Exosuit for Flexible Upper-Extremity Rehabilitation

August 17, 2018

Steven LessardPattawong PansodteeAsh RobbinsJames M. TrombadoreSri KurniawanMircea Teodorescu

A Soft Exosuit for Flexible Upper-Extremity Rehabilitation

For stroke survivors and many other people with upper-extremity impairment, daily life can be difficult without properly functioning arms. Some modern physical therapy exercises focus on rehabilitating people with these troubles by correcting patients’ perceptions of their own body to eventually regain complete control and strength over their arms again. Augmentative wearable robots, such as the upper-extremity exoskeletons and exosuits, may be able to assist in this endeavor. A common drawback in many of these exoskeletons, however, is their inability to conform to the natural flexibility of the human body without a rigid base. We have built one such exosuit to address this challenge: Compliant Robotic Upper-extremity eXosuit (CRUX). This robot is a compliant, lightweight, multi-DoF, portable exosuit that affords its wearer the ability to augment themselves in many unconventional settings (i.e. outside of a clinic). These attributes are largely achieved by using a modified tensegrity design situated according to measured lines of minimal-extension, where a network of tension members provide a foundation to apply augmentative forces via precisely placed power-lines. In this paper, we detail the design process of CRUX, the report on CRUX’s prototypical composition, and describe the mimetic control algorithm used. We also discuss the results of three studies that illustrate the efficacy of CRUX’s mimetic controller, CRUX’s flexibility and compliance, and the metabolic cost reduction when users exercise with assistance from CRUX as opposed to without. We conclude this paper with a summary of our findings, potential use cases for this technology, and the direction of future related work.

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