Motorized locomotion assisting exoskeleton devices have been proposed for assisting people with disabilities to walk or to perform other tasks, imparting therapeutic benefits. However, a major difficulty with such devices has been the lack of ability to control such devices in an effective, safe, and intuitive manner.
The present invention provides an apparatus and method for controlling a powered exoskeleton device in an intuitive and natural manner by a paraplegic or other user, and for providing feedback with regard to performance as well as enhancing the safety of the device. It can be used in rehab centers allowing people with lower paralysis to learn to sit, stand, walk and even climb stairs. In future, construction workers, soldiers, and even astronauts could also make use of this technology.
An exoskeleton bracing system includes: a trunk support for affixing to the trunk of a disabled person and leg braces for connecting to the legs of the person, each leg brace including limb segment braces. Motorized joints are adapted to provide relative angular movement between the limb segment braces of the leg braces and between the leg braces and the trunk support. One or more ground force sensors are designed to sense ground force exerted on each of the leg braces. The system also includes a controller for receiving sensed signals from said one or more ground force sensors, with an algorithm for identifying a stance from the sensed signals and, based on the identified stance, actuating the motorized joints to perform an action relating to a mode of locomotion selected from a set of predefined actions corresponding to the identified stance.
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