Towards Robot-aided Gait Rehabilitation and Assistance via Characterization and Estimation of Human Locomotion

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Description
Walking and mobility are essential aspects of our daily lives, enabling us to engage in various activities. Gait disorders and impaired mobility are widespread challenges faced by older adults and people with neurological injuries, as these conditions can significantly impact

Walking and mobility are essential aspects of our daily lives, enabling us to engage in various activities. Gait disorders and impaired mobility are widespread challenges faced by older adults and people with neurological injuries, as these conditions can significantly impact their quality of life, leading to a loss of independence and an increased risk of mortality. In response to these challenges, rehabilitation, and assistive robotics have emerged as promising alternatives to conventional gait therapy, offering potential solutions that are less labor-intensive and costly. Despite numerous advances in wearable lower-limb robotics, their current applicability remains confined to laboratory settings. To expand their utility to broader gait impairments and daily living conditions, there is a pressing need for more intelligent robot controllers. In this dissertation, these challenges are tackled from two perspectives: First, to improve the robot's understanding of human motion and intentions which is crucial for assistive robot control, a robust human locomotion estimation technique is presented, focusing on measuring trunk motion. Employing an invariant extended Kalman filtering method that takes sensor misplacement into account, improved convergence properties over the existing methods for different locomotion modes are shown. Secondly, to enhance safe and effective robot-aided gait training, this dissertation proposes to directly learn from physical therapists' demonstrations of manual gait assistance in post-stroke rehabilitation. Lower-limb kinematics of patients and assistive force applied by therapists to the patient's leg are measured using a wearable sensing system which includes a custom-made force sensing array. The collected data is then used to characterize a therapist's strategies. Preliminary analysis indicates that knee extension and weight-shifting play pivotal roles in shaping a therapist's assistance strategies, which are then incorporated into a virtual impedance model that effectively captures high-level therapist behaviors throughout a complete training session. Furthermore, to introduce safety constraints in the design of such controllers, a safety-critical learning framework is explored through theoretical analysis and simulations. A safety filter incorporating an online iterative learning component is introduced to bring robust safety guarantees for gait robotic assistance and training, addressing challenges such as stochasticity and the absence of a known prior dynamic model.
Date Created
2023
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Dynamic Modeling, Robust Control and Contact Estimation of Soft Robotics

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Description
Soft robotics has garnered attention for its substantial prospective in various domains, such as manipulation and interactions with humans, by offering competitive advantages against rigid robotic systems, including inherent compliance and variable stiffness. Despite these benefits, their theoretically infinite degrees

Soft robotics has garnered attention for its substantial prospective in various domains, such as manipulation and interactions with humans, by offering competitive advantages against rigid robotic systems, including inherent compliance and variable stiffness. Despite these benefits, their theoretically infinite degrees of freedom and prominent nonlinearities pose significant challenges in developing dynamic models and guiding the robots along desired paths. Additionally, soft robots may exhibit rigid behaviors and potentially collide with their surroundings during path tracking tasks, particularly when possible contact points are unknown. In this dissertation, reduced-order models are used to describe the behaviors of three different soft robot designs, including both linear parameter varying (LPV) and augmented rigid robot (ARR) models. While the reduced-order model captures the majority of the soft robot's dynamics, modeling uncertainties notably remain. Non-repeated modeling uncertainties are addressed by categorizing them as a lumped disturbance, employing two methodologies, $H_\infty$ method and nonlinear disturbance observer (NDOB) based sliding mode control, for its rejection. For repeated disturbances, an iterative learning control (ILC) with a P-type learning function is implemented to enhance trajectory tracking efficacy. Furthermore,for non-repeated disturbances, the NDOB facilitates the contact estimation, and its results are jointly used with a switching algorithm to modify the robot trajectories. The stability proof of all controllers and corresponding simulation and experimental results are provided. For a path tracking task of a soft robot with multi-segments, a robust control strategy that combines a LPV model with an innovative improved nonlinear disturbance observer-based adaptive sliding mode control (INASMC). The control framework employs a first-order LPV model for dynamic representation, leverages an improved disturbance observer for accurate disturbance forecasting, and utilizes adaptive sliding mode control to effectively counteract uncertainties. The tracking error under the proposed controller is proven to be asymptotically stable, and the controller's effectiveness is is validated with simulation and experimental results. Ultimately, this research mitigates the inherent uncertainty in soft robot modeling, thereby enhancing their functionality in contact-intensive tasks.
Date Created
2023
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Exploring the Optimal Design of Helical Structures for Space Explorations

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Description
As the explorations beyond the Earth's boundaries continue to evolve, researchers and engineers strive to develop versatile technologies capable of adapting to unknown space conditions. For instance, the utilization of Screw-Propelled Vehicles (SPVs) and robotics that utilize helical screws propulsion

As the explorations beyond the Earth's boundaries continue to evolve, researchers and engineers strive to develop versatile technologies capable of adapting to unknown space conditions. For instance, the utilization of Screw-Propelled Vehicles (SPVs) and robotics that utilize helical screws propulsion to transverse planetary bodies is a growing area of interest. An example of such technology is the Extant Exobiology Life Surveyor (EELS), a snake-like robot currently developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to explore the surface of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. However, the utilization of such a mechanism requires a deep and thorough understanding of screw mobility in uncertain conditions. The main approach to exploring screw dynamics and optimal design involves the utilization of Discrete Element Method (DEM) simulations to assess interactions and behavior of screws when interacting with granular terrains. In this investigation, the Simplified Johnson-Kendall-Roberts (SJKR) model is implemented into the utilized simulation environment to account for cohesion effects similar to what is experienced on celestial bodies like Enceladus. The model is verified and validated through experimental and theoretical testing. Subsequently, the performance characteristics of screws are explored under varying parameters, such as thread depth, number of screw starts, and the material’s cohesion level. The study has examined significant relationships between the parameters under investigation and their influence on the screw performance.
Date Created
2023
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Identification of Autogenic Force Feedback Responses In Elbow Flexor Muscle Group

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Description
Although previous studies have elucidated the role of position feedback in the regulation of movement, the specific contribution of Golgi tendon organs (GTO) in force feedback, especially in stabilizing voluntary limb movements, has remained theoretical due to limitations in experimental

Although previous studies have elucidated the role of position feedback in the regulation of movement, the specific contribution of Golgi tendon organs (GTO) in force feedback, especially in stabilizing voluntary limb movements, has remained theoretical due to limitations in experimental techniques. This study aims to establish force feedback regulation mediated by GTO afferent signals in two phases. The first phase of this study consisted of simulations using a neuromusculoskeletal model of the monoarticular elbow flexor (MEF) muscle group, assess the impact of force feedback in maintaining steady state interaction forces against variable environmental stiffness. Three models were trained to accurately reach an interaction force of 40N, 50N and 60N respectively, using a fixed stiffness level. Next, the environment stiffness was switched between untrained levels for open loop (OL) and closed loop (CL) variants of the same model. Results showed that compared to OL, CL showed decreased force deviations by 10.43%, 12.11% and 13.02% for each of the models. Most importantly, it is also observed that in the absence of force feedback, environment stiffness is found to have an effect on the interaction force. In the second phase, human subjects were engaged in experiments utilizing an instrumented elbow exoskeleton that applied loads to the MEF muscle group, closely mimicking the simulation conditions. The experiments consisted of reference, blind and catch trial types, and 3 stiffness levels. Subjects were first trained to reach for a predetermined target force. During catch trials, stiffness levels were randomized between reaches. Responses obtained from these experiments showed that subjects were able to regulate forces with no significant effects of trial type or stiffness level. Since experimental results align closely with that of closed loop model simulations, the presence of force feedback mechanisms mediated by GTO within the human neuromuscular system is established. This study not only unveils the critical involvement of GTO in force feedback but also emphasizes the importance of understanding these mechanisms for developing advanced neuroprosthetics and rehabilitation strategies, shedding light on the intricate interplay between sensory inputs and motor responses in human proprioception.
Date Created
2023
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Knowledge Distillation with Geometric Approaches for Multimodal Data Analysis

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Description
This thesis presents robust and novel solutions using knowledge distillation with geometric approaches and multimodal data that can address the current challenges in deep learning, providing a comprehensive understanding of the learning process involved in knowledge distillation. Deep learning has

This thesis presents robust and novel solutions using knowledge distillation with geometric approaches and multimodal data that can address the current challenges in deep learning, providing a comprehensive understanding of the learning process involved in knowledge distillation. Deep learning has attained significant success in various applications, such as health and wellness promotion, smart homes, and intelligent surveillance. In general, stacking more layers or increasing the number of trainable parameters causes deep networks to exhibit improved performance. However, this causes the model to become large, resulting in an additional need for computing and power resources for training, storage, and deployment. These are the core challenges in incorporating such models into small devices with limited power and computational resources. In this thesis, robust solutions aimed at addressing the aforementioned challenges are presented. These proposed methodologies and algorithmic contributions enhance the performance and efficiency of deep learning models. The thesis encompasses a comprehensive exploration of knowledge distillation, an approach that holds promise for creating compact models from high-capacity ones, while preserving their performance. This exploration covers diverse datasets, including both time series and image data, shedding light on the pivotal role of augmentation methods in knowledge distillation. The effects of these methods are rigorously examined through empirical experiments. Furthermore, the study within this thesis delves into the efficient utilization of features derived from two different teacher models, each trained on dissimilar data representations, including time-series and image data. Through these investigations, I present novel approaches to knowledge distillation, leveraging geometric techniques for the analysis of multimodal data. These solutions not only address real-world challenges but also offer valuable insights and recommendations for modeling in new applications.
Date Created
2023
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Sensing, Modeling, Control and Evaluation of Soft Robots for Wearable Applications

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Description
While wearable soft robots have successfully addressed many inherent design limitations faced by wearable rigid robots, they possess a unique set of challenges due to their soft and compliant nature. Some of these challenges are present in the sensing, modeling,

While wearable soft robots have successfully addressed many inherent design limitations faced by wearable rigid robots, they possess a unique set of challenges due to their soft and compliant nature. Some of these challenges are present in the sensing, modeling, control and evaluation of wearable soft robots. Machine learning algorithms have shown promising results for sensor fusion with wearable robots, however, they require extensive data to train models for different users and experimental conditions. Modeling soft sensors and actuators require characterizing non-linearity and hysteresis, which complicates deriving an analytical model. Experimental characterization can capture the characteristics of non-linearity and hysteresis but requires developing a synthesized model for real-time control. Controllers for wearable soft robots must be robust to compensate for unknown disturbances that arise from the soft robot and its interaction with the user. Since developing dynamic models for soft robots is complex, inaccuracies that arise from the unmodeled dynamics lead to significant disturbances that the controller needs to compensate for. In addition, obtaining a physical model of the human-robot interaction is complex due to unknown human dynamics during walking. Finally, the performance of soft robots for wearable applications requires extensive experimental evaluation to analyze the benefits for the user. To address these challenges, this dissertation focuses on the sensing, modeling, control and evaluation of soft robots for wearable applications. A model-based sensor fusion algorithm is proposed to improve the estimation of human joint kinematics, with a soft flexible robot that requires compact and lightweight sensors. To overcome limitations with rigid sensors, an inflatable soft haptic sensor is developed to enable gait sensing and haptic feedback. Through experimental characterization, a mathematical model is derived to quantify the user's ground reaction forces and the delivered haptic force. Lastly, the performance of a wearable soft exosuit in assisting human users during lifting tasks is evaluated, and the benefits obtained from the soft robot assistance are analyzed.
Date Created
2023
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Design and Modeling of Soft Curved Reconfigurable Anisotropic Mechanisms

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Description
This dissertation introduces and examines Soft Curved Reconfigurable Anisotropic Mechanisms (SCRAMs) as a solution to address actuation, manufacturing, and modeling challenges in the field of soft robotics, with the aim of facilitating the broader implementation of soft robots in various

This dissertation introduces and examines Soft Curved Reconfigurable Anisotropic Mechanisms (SCRAMs) as a solution to address actuation, manufacturing, and modeling challenges in the field of soft robotics, with the aim of facilitating the broader implementation of soft robots in various industries. SCRAM systems utilize the curved geometry of thin elastic structures to tackle these challenges in soft robots. SCRAM devices can modify their dynamic behavior by incorporating reconfigurable anisotropic stiffness, thereby enabling tailored locomotion patterns for specific tasks. This approach simplifies the actuation of robots, resulting in lighter, more flexible, cost-effective, and safer soft robotic systems. This dissertation demonstrates the potential of SCRAM devices through several case studies. These studies investigate virtual joints and shape change propagation in tubes, as well as anisotropic dynamic behavior in vibrational soft twisted beams, effectively demonstrating interesting locomotion patterns that are achievable using simple actuation mechanisms. The dissertation also addresses modeling and simulation challenges by introducing a reduced-order modeling approach. This approach enables fast and accurate simulations of soft robots and is compatible with existing rigid body simulators. Additionally, this dissertation investigates the prototyping processes of SCRAM devices and offers a comprehensive framework for the development of these devices. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates the potential of SCRAM devices to overcome actuation, modeling, and manufacturing challenges in soft robotics. The innovative concepts and approaches presented have implications for various industries that require cost-effective, adaptable, and safe robotic systems. SCRAM devices pave the way for the widespread application of soft robots in diverse domains.
Date Created
2023
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Understanding the Effect of Epidural Steroid Injection in Lower Back Pain Using Inertial Measurement Unit Wearable Device

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Description
Low back pain (LBP) is the most common symptom leading to hospitalization and medical assistance. In the US, LBP is the fifth most prevalent case for visiting hospitals. Approximately 2.06 million LBP incidents were reported during the timeline between 2004

Low back pain (LBP) is the most common symptom leading to hospitalization and medical assistance. In the US, LBP is the fifth most prevalent case for visiting hospitals. Approximately 2.06 million LBP incidents were reported during the timeline between 2004 and 2008. Globally, LBP occurrence increased by almost 200 million from 1990 to 2017. This problem is further implicated by physical and financial constraints that impact the individual’s quality of life. The medical cost exceeded $87.6 billion, and the lifetime prevalence was 84%. This indicates that the majority of people in the US will experience this symptom. Also, LBP limits Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and possibly affects the gait and postural stability. Prior studies indicated that LBP patients have slower gait speed and postural instability. To alleviate this symptom, the epidural injection is prescribed to treat pain and improve mobility function. To evaluate the effectiveness of LBP epidural injection intervention, gait and posture stability was investigated before and after the injection. While these factors are the fundamental indicator of LBP improvement, ADL is an element that needs to be significantly considered. The physical activity level depicts a person’s dynamic movement during the day, it is essential to gather activity level that supports monitoring chronic conditions, such as LBP, osteoporosis, and falls. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of Epidural Steroid Injection (ESI) on LBP and related gait and postural stability in the pre and post-intervention status. As such, the second objective was to assess the influence of ESI on LBP, and how it influences the participant’s ADL physical activity level. The results indicated that post-ESI intervention has significantly improved LBP patient’s gait and posture stability, however, there was insufficient evidence to determine the significant disparity in the physical activity levels. In conclusion, ESI depicts significant positive effects on LBP patients’ gait and postural parameters, however, more verification is required to indicate a significant effect on ADL physical activity levels.
Date Created
2023
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Bayesian Optimization for Robot-Aided Rehabilitation: Adaptive Variable Impedance Control of a Wearable Ankle Robot

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Description
This thesis presents a study on the user adaptive variable impedance control of a wearable ankle robot for robot-aided rehabilitation with a primary focus on enhancing accuracy and speed. The controller adjusts the impedance parameters based on the user's kinematic

This thesis presents a study on the user adaptive variable impedance control of a wearable ankle robot for robot-aided rehabilitation with a primary focus on enhancing accuracy and speed. The controller adjusts the impedance parameters based on the user's kinematic data to provide personalized assistance. Bayesian optimization is employed to minimize an objective function formulated from the user's kinematic data to adapt the impedance parameters per user, thereby enhancing speed and accuracy. Gaussian process is used as a surrogate model for optimization to account for uncertainties and outliers inherent to human experiments. Student-t process based outlier detection is utilized to enhance optimization robustness and accuracy. The efficacy of the optimization is evaluated based on measures of speed, accuracy, and effort, and compared with an untuned variable impedance controller during 2D curved trajectory following tasks. User effort was measured based on muscle activation data from the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, soleus, and gastrocnemius muscles. The optimized controller was evaluated on 15 healthy subjects and demonstrated an average increase in speed of 9.85% and a decrease in deviation from the ideal trajectory of 7.57%, compared to an unoptimized variable impedance controller. The strategy also reduced the time to complete tasks by 6.57%, while maintaining a similar level of user effort.
Date Created
2023
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Model-Predictive Optimal Control of Ferrofluid Droplet Microrobots

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Description
Ferrofluidic microrobots have emerged as promising tools for minimally invasive medical procedures, leveraging their unique properties to navigate through complex fluids and reach otherwise inaccessible regions of the human body, thereby enabling new applications in areas such as targeted drug

Ferrofluidic microrobots have emerged as promising tools for minimally invasive medical procedures, leveraging their unique properties to navigate through complex fluids and reach otherwise inaccessible regions of the human body, thereby enabling new applications in areas such as targeted drug delivery, tissue engineering, and diagnostics. This dissertation develops a model-predictive controller for the external magnetic manipulation of ferrofluid microrobots. Several experiments are performed to illustrate the adaptability and generalizability of the control algorithm to changes in system parameters, including the three-dimensional reference trajectory, the velocity of the workspace fluid, and the size, orientation, deformation, and velocity of the microrobotic droplet. A linear time-invariant control system governing the dynamics of locomotion is derived and used as the constraints of a least squares optimal control algorithm to minimize the projected error between the actual trajectory and the desired trajectory of the microrobot. The optimal control problem is implemented after time discretization using quadratic programming. In addition to demonstrating generalizability and adaptability, the accuracy of the control algorithm is analyzed for several different types of experiments. The experiments are performed in a workspace with a static surrounding fluid and extended to a workspace with fluid flowing through it. The results suggest that the proposed control algorithm could enable new capabilities for ferrofluidic microrobots, opening up new opportunities for applications in minimally invasive medical procedures, lab-on-a-chip, and microfluidics.
Date Created
2023
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