Exoskeletons have the ability to aid humans in physically demanding and injury-prone activities, such as lifting loads while squatting. However, despite their immense potential, the control of powered exoskeletons remains a persistent challenge. In this study, we first predict the human lifting motion and knee joint torque using an inverse dynamics optimization formulation with a two-dimensional (2D) human skeletal model. The design variables are human joint angle profiles. The normalized human joint torque squared is minimized subject to physical and lifting task constraints. After that, the biomechanical assistive knee exoskeleton torque is obtained by scaling the predicted human knee joint torque. Second, we also present a 2D human skeletal model with a powered knee exoskeleton for predicting the optimal assistive torque and lifting motion. The design variables are human joint angle profiles and exoskeleton motor current profiles. Then, the biomechanical and optimal exoskeleton torques are implemented in a powered knee exoskeleton in real-time to provide external assistance in human lifting motion. Finally, the biomechanical and optimal assistive exoskeleton torque controls for lifting are compared. It is observed that both control methods have a significant impact on reducing muscle activations for the specific muscle groups compared to the cases without the exoskeleton. Especially, peak activations of erector spinae and rectus femoris muscles are reduced by 57.79% and 47.26% with biomechanical assistive torque. Likewise, vastus medialis and vastus lateralis activations drop by 46.82% and 52.24% with optimal assistive torque.
Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics Open Issues