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2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems September 25-30, 2011.

San Francisco, CA, USA

Ergonomic considerations for anthropomorphic wrist exoskeletons: a simulation study on the effects of joint misalignment
Mohammad Esmaeili, Kumudu Gamage, Eugene Tan, and Domenico Campolo School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 639798 Singapore
surely adapt to a human wrist, at least within a certain range), it should be noticed that, when the extra dof are present but locked during normal operations, a kinematic mismatch might still arise, i.e. joint angles at corresponding exo and human joints no longer coincide. Although some recent studies focused on reaching-movements for robot-assisted rehabilitation for the wrist districts [6], [7], [8], [9], [10], the effect of kinematic mismatch on robot control strategies, especially in relation to neurorehabilitation, received relatively less attention. Most control strategies, in fact, assume that driving (imposing motion or torque) a robotic joint is equivalent to driving the corresponding human joint. In this paper, we do consider extra dof only for the purpose of wearing the exoskeleton, e.g. different subjects might require different positioning of the handle, but we will consider that all the extra dof as locked during normal operation. Therefore, from a kinematic perspective, the wrist exoskeleton will comprise only 2dof mobility at joints which are, in principle, aligned with human ones. We shall consider a physiologically accurate 2dof model of the human wrist, which comprises an offset between the two human joints. Such an offset is known to vary from subject to subject, with a distribution experimentally derived by [11]. In our study, we assume that the misalignment between human and exo occurs at the both proximal and distal joints along the offset between them. The human hand and the exo handle represent the endpoints1 of two dof structures, for any non-zero misalignment, the position and orientation of the hand would be obviously incompatible with the position/orientation of the handle. In reality, the hand is not a perfectly rigid body, due for example to the skin compliance and to the possible adjustment in the grasping. For this reason we hypothesize that contact between hand and handle is non-rigid and occurs through some springs. In this study we assume linear springs and this is clearly a simplication, nevertheless interesting features such as asymmetry in the reaction forces can be captured, as discussed next. As for the structure of this paper, the model of human wrist and exoskeleton is described in Section II, the prototype of
1 The other endpoint is where the exo is attached to the forearm, we assume this attachment much more rigid than the hand-handle one, see for example [12, Chapter 5].

AbstractThis work focuses on anthropomorphic exoskeletons for the human wrist. We consider a 2 dof model for the human wrist with non intersecting joints and a similar model for the exoskeleton. We assume a viscoelastic attachment between the human hand and the handle of the exoskeleton which on one side allows the different kinematics of the exoskeleton to follow the human wrist and, on the other side, induces reaction forces at all joints, in particular causing discomfort. We quantify discomfort as the amount of potential energy stored in the deformation of the viscoelastic attachment. For a specic exoskeleton implementation, based on kinematic simulations, we report the kinematic mismatch (i.e. differences between the human joints and the corresponding exoskeleton joints) as well as the reaction forces arising when the human joints assume postures throughout their physiological range of motion. Considering a typical distribution of joint offset for humans (derived from literature) and the asymmetry in the discomfort function (derived from our simulations) we address the one-size-ts-all problem and propose an optimal joint offset for the exoskeleton, based on the minimization of the aggregate loss function.

I. I NTRODUCTION Human-machine interaction is a central topic in the eld of robotic exoskeletons (exos) and more recently ergonomic factors are being systematically included since the early phases of design [1], [2]. Exos can be divided into two main categories: anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic [3]. In this paper we present ergonomic considerations, based on kinematic simulations, for anthropomorphic exos meant to act in concert with the human wrist. Discomfort in wearing an exo is due to interaction forces between human and exo arising at those locations where the exoskeleton is attached to the human limb. Such forces result from kinematic discrepancies [4], due for example to oversimplied models of human kinematics and/or misalignments between human and exo joints [5]. Most of the modern approaches propose the use of extra degrees of freedom (dof) for compensating joint misalignments. Such extra dof are passive, while only the joints which correspond to the human ones are meant to be actuated. While introducing extra dof clearly helps reducing or eliminating kinematic discrepancy (for example, a 6dof structure can
*Corresponding author d.campolo@ntu.edu.sg. This work is supported by the Academic Research Fund (AcRF) Tier1 (RG 40/09), Ministry of Education, Singapore, and the New Initiative Fund 2010 (NTU).

978-1-61284-456-5/11/$26.00 2011 IEEE

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our exoskeleton is presented as well. Then, we present the simulation and data analysis and show how misalignments lead to kinematic mismatch between exo joints and human wrist counterparts. As the results of our study, the reaction forces in wrist joint and the deformation energy in the handhandle attachment points is presented. Subsequently, as onesize-ts-all concept, we compute the optimal joint offset for exoskeleton to have the least discomfort. Finally, in section IV, the results are discussed.

Fig. 3. Functional diagram of the wrist and exoskeleton. Through a chain of links and joints human wrist is connected to the exoskeleton. Joint offset is considered for the both wrist () and exoskeleton (exo ). Misalignment (m) is applied on the exoskeleton joints throughout the simulations.

a)

b)

Fig. 1. Exoskeleton with hand model. a) Conguration of the exoskeleton alongside the wrist. b) SimMechanics model.

II. M ETHODS A. Modeling the human wrist The human wrist is a complex joint with 2 degrees of freedom (dof) responsible for radial-ulnar deviation (RUD, distal) and exion-extension (FE, proximal). Despite small changes in the instantaneous center of rotation for each joint during rotations, a widely accepted approximation is to assume ideal revolute joints for both degrees of freedom. The simplest models assume a universal joint [13]. In reality, the FE and RUD axes are almost orthogonal and non-intersecting [14] and the joint offset of between the RUD and FE axes is known to vary among subjects. Leonard et al. [11] investigated, with noninvasive measurements, the distribution of the offset for a population of 108 subjects and reported a 6.8mm mean interaxes offset with a distribution as shown2 in Fig. 2.
1
Frequency

the model consists of series of three rigid bodies3 , the most proximal being the forearm (xed) and the most distal being the hand, connected to one another via revolute joints. (proximal) and We considered two orthogonal joints wrist FE wrist (distal) and with an offset between the two axes (joint RUD offset) along the longitudinal axis of the forearm (Y-axis). Each joint has an associated joint angle: F E and RUD for the FE and RUD axes, respectively. For the joint angles, we assumed an average range of motion (RoM) as [-50 35] degrees for RUD and [-65 70] degrees for F E . B. The modeling of the exoskeleton For the exoskeleton, we considered an anthropomorphic structure, i.e. a 2dof mechanism with revolute joint axes exo RUD and exo F E with a similar proximal-distal order and aligned with the anatomical counterparts. As for the alignment, as we shall see next, a variable misalignment will be purposely introduced to analyze its effects. The proximal end of the exoskeleton is meant to be attached to the forearm, and therefore xed. The distal end of the exoskeleton is attached to the hand through the handle. While for the forearm we can resort to optimal attachments methods which minimize skin motion effects, e.g. see the splinting proposed in [15], the hand-handle attachment is more prone to relative motions and, to the authors knowledge, much less analyzed in literature. For this reason, we assumed a perfect attachment between human forearm and the proximal side of the exoskeleton while we assumed a non-rigid attachment between human hand and handle. This non-rigid attachment is implemented via a set of four non-collinear ideal springs which are meant to allow some degree of relative motion between human hand and handle during grasping. This is clearly a rough approximation and its required experimental validation by the authors is still on-going at the time of writing. Nevertheless, we refer to similar approaches performed by Schiele et al. on [1] although not specically for the handhandle attachment. We heuristically set the stiffness constant
3 The middle body is simply used to introduce an offset between the two joints.

0.5

0 201612 8 4 0 4 8 12 16 20 24 28
Joint axes offset [mm]

Fig. 2. Normalized frequency distribution of wrist joint rotation axes offset, based on [11].

Based on the above considerations, we developed a kinematic model of the human wrist in the SimMechanics (MathWorks Inc.) environment. As shown schematically in Fig. 3,
2 Note:

the values were digitized from the original work [11].

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to the four springs equal to 2000 N/m. The use of four non-collinear springs results in a translational and rotational stiffness throughout the movements which are considered in potential energy (see III-C). Besides the FE and RUD joints which are supposed to mirror the human counterparts, the exoskeleton is also endowed with a number of passive joints. Such passive joints are required to adapt the exoskeleton itself to the different size of end users. Remark: the passive joints are meant to be locked while the exoskeleton is in use. The model used in our simulations, described next, takes into account the full structure of the exoskeleton. This is important for future studies, when the inertial properties of the exoskeleton will also be considered.

model are actuated according to a sequence of discrete values corresponding to a 11 9 matrix of values covering the RoM mentioned in II-A. SimMechanics is a continuous time simulator, so discontinuous, step-like transitions between two discrete values of a joint angle would elicit long-lasting transient behaviors, while we are only interested in steady-state conditions. In order to generate smooth transitions between discrete values of each joint angle, we used the jtraj function, distributed with the MATLAB Robotics Toolbox [16], which implements a 7th order polynomial interpolation. As seen from Fig. 5, the combined effect of smooth transitions between discrete values of the human joint angle and the overdamped response of the system ensures short transient behaviors. The steady-state conditions of the angles for both human and exoskeleton joints can be reliably sampled at xed time intervals (circles in Fig. 5).

Exo 5

Human

Sampling

Sampling

[deg]
RUD

5 9.7 9.8 9.9 10


time [s]

10.1

10.2

10.3

Fig. 4. Prototype of the exoskeleton. Besides, the FE and RUD joints of the exoskeleton which are supposed to mirror the human counterparts, the extra passive joints are considered to align the exoskeleton with different size of end users.

Fig. 5. Steady-state sampling represented in time domain. Blue dash-line is the active movement of wrist followed by exoskeleton (red solid line) passively. Circles are the samples chosen when system is in steady-state condition.

C. Simulation and data analysis Although in this study we are interested in the ergonomics of the exoskeleton from a kinematic perspective, in our simulations we implemented the full structure of the exoskeleton as shown in Fig. 4, comprising the inertial properties of each element. Given the elastic and the inertial properties present in the model, transient behaviors would inevitably arise after each step of the inputs. For this reason, we also added linear dampers in series to each spring, to dampen out any mechanical resonance due to the elastic properties of the springs and the inertial properties of the exoskeleton. Heuristically, we set the linear damping coefcients to 1.0 N/(m s1 ) as this generated overdamped behaviors, quickly leading to steady-state conditions. In order to analyze the steady-state conditions for different human wrist postures, FE and RUD joints in the human wrist

By sampling at these very xed time intervals, we were able to extract the steady-state values for the following variables (for both the human wrist and the exoskeleton): kinematics: angular position, angular velocity and angular accelerations for FE and RUD joints; 4 reaction forces (F r ): amplitude of generated forces due to misalignments for FE and RUD joints, computed as Fr =
2 + F2 + F2 Fx y z

discomfort function: for each misalignment, we compute the mean value over the workspace of the elastic energy of the springs between hand and handle5 (see Fig. 3);

4 Single force components could be analyzed as well, but we found no qualitative difference. 5 Although rather arbitrary, we noticed no qualitative difference when choosing the mean value of reaction forces or kinematic mismatch between human and exo joint angles.

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Normalized reaction force

Therefore, for each posture of the human wrist, we extracted the corresponding values for the physical variables described above. We repeated the simulation for different possible misalignments between the RUD/FE joint of the exoskeleton and the RUD/FE joint of the human wrist. In particular, based on the work of Leonard et al. [11] in Fig. 2, a misalignment distribution6 was considered. The choice of range of misalignments was dictated by the aggregate loss calculations explained later. NOTE: just for programming convenience, the human joint offset was held constant while the misalignment was generated by varying the exoskeleton joint offset. III. R ESULTS A. Kinematic mismatch We simulated a so-called active mode operation, i.e. desired angles were imposed for the human joints while the exo passively followed. As expected, except for the case of perfect alignment, there was a kinematic mismatch between the exo FE/RUD angles and human counterpart (since the joint misalignment was for the FE (proximal) joint, the angular mismatch was obviously found between the human and exo FE and RUD angles too). Fig. 6 shows a representative case, for a +12mm joint misalignment. The mismatch grew approximately linearly with the angle. For the representative case of +12mm misalignment, there is a 20% relative error, as shown in Fig. 6.

force is seen throughout the RoMRUD when F E = 0. For each FE joint angle the amount of F rF E is almost constant across RoMRUD . Note: Since, stiffness of the springs in the attachment points as well as damping ratio are heuristically selected, we took into account the normalized values for all forces.

1 0.5 0 20 0

RUD

50 0 20 50

FE

[deg]

[deg]

Fig. 7. Normalized reaction force on FE joint of wrist over the range of exo . motion of FE and RUD for +12mm misalignment on F E

C. Non-rigid attachment The resulting deformation energy of the four non-collinear springs, explained in II-B, during movement of the wrist could be calculated through
4

Human 20
RUD [deg]

Exo

Ut =
i=1

1 ki l2 i 2

(1)

10 0 10 20 50

FE

Where, k is the stiffness and l is the length of each spring shown in Fig. 3.
Normalized deformation energy

1 0.5 0 20 0
RUD [deg]

0
[deg]

50

Fig. 6. Range of motion of exoskeleton (solid line-crosses) is compared with exo . wrist (dots-circles) for a representative +12mm misalignment on F E

B. Reaction forces at human wrist Fig. 7 shows the reaction forces at the FE joint of the wrist human wrist (F rF E ) against the range of motion of FE and RUD joints. These forces are monitored in the presence of +12mm misalignment between the F E of wrist and exoskeleton. In covering the whole RoMF E , the maximum amounts of reaction forces occur in the maximum range of the wrist exor for the whole RUD joint angles. No reaction
6 These misalignments are along the longitudinal axis of the forearm, i.e. in the Y-axis as in Fig. 3.

50 0 20 50

FE

[deg]

Fig. 8. Normalized deformation energy at attachment points of end-effector exo . for +12mm misalignment on F E

Fig. 8, illustrates the resulting deformation energy over wrist RUD and FE angles. It can be seen that, deformation energy signicantly changes across exion-extension rotations while it seems less sensitive to radial-ulnar deviations.

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Total discomfort

Moreover, we calculated the mean values of the deformation energy for each amount of misalignment and considered the normalized amount of this deformation energy during movement of wrist as the Normalized discomfort which is shown in Fig. 9.
Normalized discomfort

30 20 10 0 201612 8 4

8 12 16 20 24 28

Joint axes offset [mm]

0.5

Fig. 10. Density of total discomfort over the range of wrist axes offset. The mean of total potential energy for a set of misalignment is taken into consideration in calculating total discomfort.
0 60 40 20 0 20 40 Misalignment [mm] 60

Fig. 9.

Normalized discomfort over the different amount of misalignments.

The optimal offset for the exoskeleton is numerically found to be exo := arg min L( exo ) = 4 mm opt IV. CONCLUSION We evaluated the transparency of an exoskeleton in presence of misalignments between human and mechanical joints. In particular, we evaluated the response of the exoskeleton in terms of kinematic mismatch and reaction forces in wrist joint by simulating imposed movements at the human joints (within a physiological range of motion). Although the exoskeleton in Fig. 4 comprises various extra (prismatic) joints, to allow different users to wear the exoskeleton, during operation all these extra prismatic joints are meant to be locked. Therefore, the exoskeleton is a 2dof system. Any misalignment would make it kinematically incompatible (kinematic discrepancy) with the human 2dof wrist unless some compliance is allowed. The distal part of the exo is attached to the hand through a handle while the proximal part is meant to be attached to the forearm. We focused on the hand-handle attachment since, is more prone to relative motion and is less addressed in literature, to the authors knowledge. To do so, we considered a nonrigid attachment between hand and handle by implementing a set of four non-collinear springs. Our simulations quantied the amount of kinematic mismatch between the human joint angles and the exo counterparts caused by joint misalignment. Such a kinematic mismatch should be taken into account especially when the exoskeleton is being driven, imposing movement to the human joints. Typically, it is assumed perfect match between human and exo joint angles while our simulations show that large errors (e.g. 20% relative error in Fig. 6) might arise. This suggests that the human joint angles should be measured separately from the exo joint angles. Although the exo joints are not actuated in our study, reaction forces still arise due to kinematic mismatch, as highlighted by our simulations. As mentioned in [4], kinematic discrepancy is one of the causes for reaction forces. Since our exoskeleton is located on the volar side of the wrist, it causes asymmetric kinematic mismatch between exoskeleton and wrist for exion rotations in presence of misalignments.

D. One-size-ts-all Since the RUDFE offset for the exoskeleton cannot be in principle aligned by simple visual procedures, in this section we try to estimate which optimal offset, for the exo, would best t an entire population, not just a single subject. For this we shall use the distribution of the joint offsets derived by Leonard et al. [11] and correlate it with the discomfort caused by different misalignments, as in Fig. 9. To this end we shall make use of the concept of aggregate loss [17] which is widely used in the elds of Human Factors and Ergonomics as well as in Economics. Simply put: if we have to design a one-size T-shirt meant to t an entire population, knowing the anthropomorphic data of a population and knowing that each individual will claim a refund proportional to the amount of discomfort (a positive function of size mismatch), what is the optimal size that will minimize the total refund (aggregate loss)? One might be tempted to design a T-shirt that ts the average size (from the population distribution) any asymmetry in the population distribution or in the discomfort function (e.g. better a T-shirt too large rather than too small) might induce better choices. In our case, the distribution P DF ( ) of joint offsets ( ) for the population sampled by Leonard et al. [11], reported in Fig. 2, does not present remarkable asymmetries, with the = 6.8mm. On the other hand, the average offset being (m), function of misalignment (m), is highly discomfort U asymmetric due to mounting the exo in the interior side of the wrist, as shown in Fig. 9. An exoskeleton with offset exo worn by a person whose anatomical offset is , would cause a ( exo ). Therefore, the aggregate loss L( exo ), discomfort U for a specic choice of exoskeleton offset, is L( exo ) := ( exo ) d P DF ( )U

Fig. 10 shows the aggregate loss numerically estimated from the data available from Leonard et al. [11] and the simulated discomfort function.

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Therefore, larger amounts of reaction forces occur during wrist extension, rather than exion (see Fig. 7). These reaction forces do not perform work on the human joint but cause discomfort, or worse, pain. When a misalignment between human and exo joints is present, the end-effector does not closely follow the hand making the non-collinear springs to stretch or compress, causing deformation energy. Due to the structure of the exoskeleton and its position (volar part of the wrist), deformation energy has an asymmetric prole with regard to rest position of FE (F E = 0) with larger deformation energies during exion. To have a natural movement without perturbation, it is needed to have the least resistance against the motion in any voluntarily movement over the range of motion of human joint. The occurrence of the reaction forces on the joint would cause a perturbation on the movement because of the low impedance/stiffness of the limb. Despite the oversimplications, this work highlighted that misalignments would result in kinematic discrepancies and generation of interaction forces in pHRI. Kinematic mismatch would then make an exoskeleton non-transparent, causing movement perturbation. Since, the discomfort is asymmetric, choosing an offset for the exoskeleton based on the average offset for the human joints, might not be optimal from a one-size-ts-all perspective. Based on the aggregate loss minimization concept, we numerically found that a 4mm offset for the exo joints, instead of a 6.8 mm average (as from the experimental distribution of human offsets), would actually determine the optimal one-size-ts-all. R EFERENCES
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