Three weeks ago the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a series of patent applications from Samsung that relate to a human wearable robot and a method of controlling it in relation to being walk-assistive. In one or more example embodiments, the wearable robot is configured to detect a standing time point and generate an auxiliary torque for assisting human muscle strength. The robotic enhancements are to provide soldiers and/or industrial workers extra strength to carry or lift heavy loads. We've seen Cyborg and Terminator movies and video games for years if not decades that cover technology that could enhance human capabilities. Samsung's series of inventions begins to take us to where Science Fiction turns to Science Facts.
Samsung's patent FIG. 1 is an external view of a wearable robot that may have an exoskeleton structure to be worn on the legs of a user. The user may perform operations such as extension, flexion, adduction, and abduction while wearing the wearable robot 1. Extension refers to motion of straightening a joint, and flexion refers to motion of bending a joint. Adduction refers to motion of putting a leg close to the central axis of the body, and abduction refers to motion of putting a leg away from the central axis of the body. The wearable robot 1 may include a gear part #100, a controller #200, and a sensor part #300.
The gear part is a part to assist the user with walking and consists of a waist gear #110, a link part #120, a joint part #130, and a foot gear #140 as noted below in FIG. 1.
Samsung's patent FIG. 3 is a view illustrating a single gait cycle of human walking. FIG. 4 is a view illustrating typical activities of major muscle groups in the single gait cycle and anatomical locations of the major muscle groups.
In some example embodiments, the wearable robot includes an assistance device having an exoskeleton structure configured to be worn on legs of a user; sensors including a first electromyogram (EMG) sensor and a second EMG sensor, the first EMG sensor configured to attach at a first location on at least one leg of the user and to detect a first EMG signal, the second EMG sensor configured to attach at a second location on the at least one leg and to detect a second EMG signal; and a controller configured to detect a walking assist starting point based on the first EMG signal and the second EMG signal, the walking assist starting point being a point in a walking cycle in which the assistance device assists the user with walking.
In some example embodiments, the first location on the at least one leg of the user corresponds to a location of a tibialis anterior muscle of the user, and the second location of the at least one leg of the user corresponds to a location of a triceps surae muscle of the user.
In some example embodiments, the second location on the at least one leg of the user corresponds to a location of a soleus muscle of the user.
In some example embodiments, the controller is configured to determine the walking assist starting point by detecting when the first EMG signal is in an offset state and the second EMG signal is in an onset state, the onset state being a state when a muscle at the first location is activated and the offset state being a state when a muscle at the second location is deactivated.
In some example embodiments, the sensors further include at least one of a gyro sensor and an acceleration sensor, the gyro sensor configured to detect inclination of an upper body of the user, and the acceleration sensor configured to detect walking acceleration of the user.
In some example embodiments, the controller is configured to calculate a torque to apply to a driver such that the driver assists a muscular power of the user.
In some example embodiments, the controller is configured to calculate the torque such that the torque is proportional to inclination of a body of the user or walking speed of the user.
Samsung's second patent regarding a method of controlling a wearable robot, focuses on measuring a ground reaction force (GRF) exerted on a wearer's soles; calculating a time variation rate of the measured GRF; measuring the wearer's knee joint angle; and detecting a time point at which the calculated time variation rate of the GRF and the measured knee joint angle cross each other.
Samsung's third patent on this subject matter covers a method of controlling the walk-assistive robot which includes obtaining ground information that is information regarding ground in a walking direction; determining control patterns of the walk-assistive robot by analyzing the obtained ground information; and controlling the walk-assistive robot based on the determined control patterns.
Samsung's invention may also be designed to assist the disabled and/or elderly to walk.
Samsung's three US patent applications regarding human robotics were filed in Q3 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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