In this paper, a customized optical force sensor is developed for an application with a cable-driven leg exoskeleton. Sensors are vital components of cable-driven, exoskeletal robotic systems, which require real-time and accurate measurement of cable tensions. While these systems’ accuracy is a consideration, the added weight, volume, and complexity of the system must is an essential part of widespread adoption for wearable applications. These sensors can also be costly, which is undesirable. An optical force sensor has the advantages of being lightweight, lower in manufacturing cost, and easy to incorporate within the exoskeleton architecture. We designed a sensor to accommodate the expected force profiles and magnitudes during gait while wearing the Cable-Driven Active Leg Exoskeleton (C-ALEX) during a walking task. We carried out four different calibration tests with dynamic loading of the sensors from 10N to 40N. Once a sensor calibration was established, the optical sensor’s performance was compared to a traditional load cell in validation tests. Both components were used in an assist-as-needed force controller in a walking task with a user, with the optical force sensor incorporated into the C-ALEX exoskeleton arms. Comparing the sensor responses to the command tension forces, the results show a root-mean-square error (RMSE) of 0.9595N ± 0.5360N.

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