Exoskeleton for Improving Mobility

Exoskeletons have the potential to improve the mobility of individuals who suffer from a variety of gait pathologies, such as stroke victims or those with lower-body paralysis. A recent example was the 2016 Cybathlon Powered Exoskeleton Race, where individuals with lower-body paralysis competed in a head-to-head obstacle course race in Zurich, Switzerland. We have been researching using these powered exoskeletons to improve mobility for several years, and are continuing to do so with our latest exoskeleton, the Mina v2.

 

Research Goals

The IHMC team as been designing motion algorithms for decades. These algorithms, though, have yet to make it onto our exoskeleton hardware. We are currently working on porting over some of our tried-and-true mobility concepts to our exoskeleton systems. However, the inclusion of a human who is also doing everything they can to stay balanced complicates this approach. To address this, we are developing new algorithms that combine our proven concepts of robotic balance to augment both the user's ability to sense what the exoskeleton will do, and the exoskeleton's ability to detect the pilot's attempts at balance. With this approach, we aim to develop exoskeletons that not only improve the mobility of their wearer, but allow them to balance without the use of crutches. We will build off our experiences and successes in the Mina v1, X1, and Cybathlon projects to develop this new technology.

Mina v2 Hardware

We have developed a new exoskeleton, Mina v2, for the Cybathlon, which features a new actuator design initially developed for the Grasshopper exercise device. This exoskeleton features powered ankles, the use of which we are exploring to develop faster and more stable walking than previous versions. We are also including pressure sensors on the foot plate to measure how much of and where the pilot's weight is on each foot. We are currently also redesigning the exoskeleton to feature powered hip abduction/adduction.