Lower-extremity powered exoskeletons have traditionally used four to ten powered degrees of freedom to provide gait assistance for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Systems with numerous high-impedance powered degrees of freedom commonly suffer from cumbersome walking dynamics and decreased utility due to added weight and increased control complexity. We propose a new approach to powered exoskeleton design that minimizes actuation and control complexity by embedding intelligence into the hardware. This paper describes a minimalistic system that uses a single motor for each exoskeleton leg in conjunction with a bio-inspired hip-knee coupling mechanism to enable users to walk, sit, and stand. Operating in concert with a custom orthotic knee joint, the exoskeleton hip joint has been designed to mimic the biarticular coupling of human leg muscles thus allowing a single actuator to power both hip and knee motions simultaneously. The implementation of this design resulted in a system that provides comparable performance to existing exoskeletons. This system has been tested on paraplegic subjects and has successfully enabled patients to stand up, sit down, and ambulate in numerous real world situations.

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