Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have discovered that humans whose lower limbs are fastened to a typical clinical robot only modify their gait if the forces the robot applies threaten their walking ability.
The researchers measured how test subjects' gait changed in response to forces applied by a robotic exoskeleton while on a treadmill. They found the walkers adjusted their stride in response to a change in the length, but not the height, of their step.
The researchers note this discrepancy can be explained by the central nervous system's reliance on stability when determining how to adjust to a disruption in normal walking.
They say this breakthrough advances the scientific community's understanding of the interactions between robots and patients. "Studying how the human body interacts with robots can not only teach us how to build better clinical rehabilitation machines, but also how our own human bodies work," says Harvard professor Donald Ingber.
From Harvard University
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