[Abstract] Wearable Hand Exoskeleton Systems for Virtual Reality and Rehabilitation

Abstract

The aim is to overcome the limitations of conventional systems in terms of both wearability and portability. As the hand receives diverse physical information and manipulates different type of objects, conventional systems contain many sensors and actuators, and are both large and heavy. Thus, hand exoskeleton systems exhibiting high wearability and portability while measuring finger motions and delivering forces would be highly valuable. For VR hand exoskeleton systems, a wearable hand exoskeleton system with force-controllable actuator modules was developed to ensure free finger motion and force mode control. The linkage structure ensures motion with three degrees of freedom (DOF) and provides a large fingertip workspace; the finger postures assumed when interacting with objects are appropriate. A series elastic actuator (SEA) with an actuator and an elastic element was used to fabricate compact actuator modules. Actuator friction was eliminated using a friction compensation algorithm. A proportional differential (PD) controller, optimized by a linear quadratic (LQ) method featuring a disturbance observer (DOB), was used to ensure accurate force mode control even during motion. The force control performance of the actuator module was verified in force generation experiments including stationary and arbitrary end-effector motions. The forces applied to the fingertips, which are the principal parts of the hand that interact with objects, were kinematically analyzed via both simulations and experiments. To overcome the weak point of previous system, a wearable hand exoskeleton system featuring finger motion measurement and force feedback was developed and evaluated in terms of user experience (UX). The finger structures for the thumb, index, and middle fingers, which play important roles when grasping objects, satisfy full range of motion (ROM). The system estimates all joint angles of these three digits using a dedicated algorithm; measurement accuracy was experimentally evaluated to verify system performance. The UX performance was evaluated by 15 undergraduate students who completed questionnaires assessing usability and utilitarian value following trials conducted in the laboratory. All subjects were highly satisfied with both usability and the utilitarian nature of the system, not only because control and feedback were intuitive but also because performance was accurate. For rehabilitation, a highly portable exoskeleton featuring flexion/extension finger exercises was developed. The exoskeleton features two four-bar linkages reflecting the natural metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and proximal phalangeal (PIP) joint angles. During optimization, the design parameters were adjusted to reflect normal finger trajectories, which vary by finger length and finger joint ROM. To allow for passive physical impedance, a spring was installed to generate the forces that guided the fingers. The moments transmitted to the MCP and PIP joints were estimated via finite element method (FEM) analysis and the cross-sectional areas of the links were manually designed by reference to the expected joint moments. Finger motion and force distribution experiments verified that the system guided the fingers effectively, allowed for the desired finger motions, and distributed the required moments to the joints (as revealed by FEM analysis).; This thesis reports the development of hand exoskeleton systems, for use in virtual reality (VR) environments and for hand rehabilitation

via ScholarWorks: Wearable Hand Exoskeleton Systems for Virtual Reality and Rehabilitation

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