Robotic prostheses and exoskeletons that can personalize assistance to a patient through adaptation are of great value for
individuals with mobility challenges, such as those with amputation or stroke. Studies show mobility is strongly linked to
quality of life, participation and depression, and these technologies have significant ability to enhance human ambulation,
reduce fall risk, and improve overall quality of life. The proposed research aims to create a paradigm shift in the wearable
robotics field by innovating a new artificial intelligence (AI) framework for self-adapting robotic control to personalize
assistance to a patient’s unique walking pattern.
The overall hypothesis of this work is that AI systems capable of self-adaptive control during dynamic, unstructured
community ambulation can improve mobility in patients using robotic prostheses and exoskeletons.
To enable sufficient levels of adaptation in intelligent wearable robotic applications, such as robotic exoskeletons and
prostheses, the team must overcome critical scientific gaps: Challenge 1) Predictive algorithms to determine user intent are
either user-dependent with significant training data requirements or user-independent with high error rates. Challenge 2)
Current human-in-the-loop approaches to adapt control policy are slow due to reliance on metabolic measures and are unable
to optimize wearable robotic control outside of a static environment, such as fixed-speed treadmill walking.
These technological gaps have impeded the translation of such systems beyond lab settings to real-world community use.
This New Innovator proposal will address these gaps through two primary innovations: Innovation 1) Create self-adaptive
intent recognition systems that learn an individual patient’s gait patterns; Innovation 2) Formulate a human-in-the-loop
(HIL) actor-critic framework that maximizes a multi-objective reward function to self-adapt control policy across users and
environmental states. The concept of a controller framework for wearable robotics that self-adapts both an intent recognition
system and control policy to accommodate patient gait across locomotion tasks is novel and has not been previously
investigated. These innovations will initially be validated in able-bodied control subjects using state-of-the-art robotic
exoskeleton technology developed in the PI’s lab. Innovation 1’s concepts of a self-adaptive intent recognition system will
be translated to a robotic knee/ankle prosthesis platform and clinically tested on patients with transfemoral amputation.
Innovation 2’s concepts of actor critical networks for self-adapting control policy will be translated to a hip exoskeleton for
individuals post stroke and validated in clinical experiments. Patient interactions with AI systems deployed to wearable
robotics are critical to accelerate the field and cannot be derived from offline studies or able-bodied control testing.
Ultimately, the outcomes will enable self-adaptive wearable robotic technology to improve patient mobility through
personalized assistance. AI technology combined with wearable robotics has the potential to increase walking speed,
improve gait quality and stability, and enable more accessibility to diverse locomotion tasks for patient populations with
mobility deficits. This functionality promises to translate to improved community ambulation and enhanced quality of life.