In this paper, the modeling, design, and characterization of the passive discrete variable stiffness joint (pDVSJ-II) are presented. The pDVSJ-II is an extended proof of concept of a passive revolute joint with discretely controlled variable stiffness. The key motivation behind this design is the need for instantaneous switching between stiffness levels when applied for remote exploration applications where stiffness mapping is required, in addition for the need of low-energy consumption. The novelty of this work lies in the topology used to alter the stiffness of the variable stiffness joint. Altering the stiffness is achieved by selecting the effective length of an elastic cord with hook's springs. This is realized through the novel design of the cord grounding unit (CGU), which is responsible for creating a new grounding point, thus changing the effective length and the involved springs. The main features of CGU are the fast response and the low-energy consumption. Two different levels of stiffness (low, high) can be discretely selected besides the zero stiffness. The proposed physical-based model matched the experimental results of the pDVSJ-II in terms of discrete stiffness variation curves, and the stiffness dependency on the behavior of the springs. Two psychophysiological tests were conducted to validate the capabilities to simulate different levels of stiffness on human user and the results showed high relative accuracy. Furthermore, a qualitative experiment in a teleoperation scenario is presented as a case study to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed haptic interface.

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