Mechanical Impedance Control in the Human Arm While Manually Transporting an Open-Top Fluid Filled Dish
The present study deals with stabilizing aspects of a hand-held dish filled with liquid while walking steadily. This is an attempt to decipher the neuro-muscular strategies employed and the mechanical responses of the arm during certain tasks of manual materials handling. The experimental configuration included a cup and the test-subject’s hand as an ‘end-effector’ of a serial three-link system representing the upper limb. These links are connected together by the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. The tested subjects walked at constant speed on a treadmill while aiming to minimize liquid spillage from the cup. The motion of the limb and shoulder girdle served as inputs to a model to reveal the impedance adjustments during the simultaneous control of grasping and walking under ordinary conditions, and when one of the joints is affected. A regressive function used to express stiffness, included first-order dependence on angle and on angular velocity. The function used for damping included first-order dependence on angular velocity. Redundancies in the numerical solution were eliminated using multicollinearity diagnostic algorithms. The results revealed that the wrist joint was found to have constant stiffness and damping and no regulation of these coefficients was necessary during gait. Both in the elbow and shoulder joints stiffness included a constant coefficient as well as an angular velocity-dependent coefficient. Although all tested subjects demonstrated ability to prevent spillage of liquid, there was a considerable variability among the results obtained, indicating that the compensatory mechanisms employed by each subject to regulate the mechanical impedance were subjective. These results can help in the optimization of manual materials handeling tasks in industrial settings as well as future design of prosthetic arms, robotic appliances and man machine interfacing devices.