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Rehabilitation robots are, currently, being explored for training of neural impaired subjects or for assistance of those with weak limbs. Intensive training of neurally impaired subjects, with quantifiable outcomes, is the eventual goal of these robot exoskeletons. Conventional arm exoskeletons for rehabilitation are bulky and heavy. In recent years, the authors have proposed to make lightweight exoskeletons for rehabilitation by replacing the rigid links of the exoskeleton with lightweight cuffs fixed to the moving limb segments of the human arm. Cables are routed through these cuffs, which are driven by motors, to move the limb segments relative to each other. However, a scientific limitation of a cable-driven system is that each cable can only pull but not push. This paper is the first to demonstrate via experiments with cable-driven arm exoskeleton (CAREX) that it is possible to achieve desired forces on the hand, i.e., both pull and push, in any direction as required in neural training. In this research, an anthropomorphic arm was used to bench test the design and control concepts proposed in CAREX. As described in this paper, CAREX was attached to the limb segments of a five degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic arm instrumented with joint sensors. The cuffs of CAREX were designed to have adjustable cable routing points to optimize the “tensioned” workspace of the anthropomorphic arm. Simulation results of force field for training and rehabilitation of the arm are first presented. Experiments are conducted to show the performance of a CAREX force field controller when human subjects pull the end-effector of the anthropomorphic arm to travel on prescribed paths. The human-exoskeleton interface is also presented at the end of this paper to demonstrate the feasibility of CAREX on human arm.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2012