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In the design of exoskeletons for gait rehabilitation, the choice of degrees of freedom (DoFs) is one of the main issues. The goal of this research is to evaluate the effect of availability of additional DoFs related to balance-keeping on the normality of walking. These additional DoFs are the horizontal translations of the pelvis and the frontal rotation of the hip. Measurements on the gait of ten healthy subjects showed that kinematics and EMG differ only slightly when these DoFs are blocked (and only the sagittal joint rotations are available), in the impedance-controlled LOPES exoskeleton. This shows that omitting the additional DoFs allows walking with close-to-normal motor control, and also that effects of waking in this robot per se overshadow the additional effects of the mentioned DoFs. All subjects however reported a more difficult and uncomfortable walking when the horizontal pelvis motions were blocked. An additional motivation for keeping the DoFs despite these results is that they allow implementation of balance training.
Date of Conference: 13-15 June 2007