Myoelectric signals from the human motor control system can improve the real-time control and neural-machine interface of robotic leg prostheses and exoskeletons for different locomotor activities (e.g., walking, sitting down, stair ascent, and non-rhythmic movements). Here we review the latest advances in myoelectric control designs and propose future directions for research and innovation. We review the different wearable sensor technologies, actuators, signal processing, and pattern recognition algorithms used for myoelectric locomotor control and intent recognition, with an emphasis on the hierarchical architectures of volitional control systems. Common mechanisms within the control architecture include 1) open-loop proportional control with fixed gains, 2) active-reactive control, 3) joint mechanical impedance control, 4) manual-tuning torque control, 5) adaptive control with varying gains, and 6) closed-loop servo actuator control. Based on our review, we recommend that future research consider using musculoskeletal modeling and machine learning algorithms to map myoelectric signals from surface electromyography (EMG) to actuator joint torques, thereby improving the automation and efficiency of next-generation EMG controllers and neural interfaces for robotic leg prostheses and exoskeletons. We also propose an example model-based adaptive impedance EMG controller including muscle and multibody system dynamics. Ongoing advances in the engineering design of myoelectric control systems have implications for both locomotor assistance and rehabilitation.

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