Influence of Attachment Pressure and Kinematic Configuration on pHRI with Wearable Robots
The goal of this paper is to show the influence of exoskeleton attachment, such as the pressure on the fixation cuffs and alignment of the robot joint to the human joint, on subjective and objective performance metrics (i.e. comfort, mental load, interface forces, tracking error and available workspace) during a typical physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) experiment. A mathematical model of a single degree of freedom interaction between humans and a wearable robot is presented and used to explain the causes and characteristics of interface forces between the two. The pHRI model parameters (real joint offsets, attachment stiffness) are estimated from experimental interface force measurements acquired during tests with 14 subjects. Insights gained by the model allow optimisation of the exoskeleton kinematics. This paper shows that offsets of more than ±10 cm exist between human and robot axes of rotation, even if a well-designed exoskeleton is aligned properly before motion. Such offsets can create interface loads of up to 200 N and 1.5 Nm in the absence of actuation. The optimal attachment pressure is determined to be 20 mmHg and the attachment stiffness is about 300 N/m. Inclusion of passive compensation joints in the exoskeleton is shown to lower the interaction forces significantly, which enables a more ergonomic pHRI.