Whole body awareness for controlling a robotic transfemoral prosthesis

Andrea Parri, Elena Martini, Joost Geeroms, Louis Flynn, Guido Pasquini, Simona Crea, Raffaele Molino Lova, Dirk Lefeber, Roman Kamnik, Marko Munih, Nicola Vitiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Restoring locomotion functionality of transfemoral amputees is essential for early rehabilitation treatment and for preserving mobility and independence in daily life. Research in wearable robotics fostered the development of innovative active mechatronic lowerlimb prostheses designed with the goal to reduce the cognitive and physical effort of lower-limb amputees in rehabilitation and daily life activities. To ensure benefits to the users, active mechatronic prostheses are expected to be aware of the user intention and properly interact in a closed humanintheloop paradigm. In the state of the art various cognitive interfaces have been proposed to online decode the user's intention. Electromyography in combination with mechanical sensing such as inertial or pressure sensors is a widely adopted solution for driving active mechatronic prostheses. In this framework, researchers also explored targeted muscles reinnervation for an objectiveoriented surgical amputation promoting wider usability of active prostheses. However, information kept by the neural component of the cognitive interface deteriorates in a prolonged use scenario due to electrodesrelated issues, thereby undermining the correct functionality of the active prosthesis. The objective of this work is to present a novel controller for an active transfemoral prosthesis based on whole body awareness relying on a wireless distributed noninvasive sensory apparatus acting as cognitive interface. A finitestate machine controller based on signals monitored from the wearable interface performs subjectindependent intention detection of functional tasks such as ground level walking, stair ascent, and sittostand maneuvres and their main subphases. Experimental activities carried out with four transfemoral amputees (among them one dysvascular) demonstrated high reliability of the controller capable of providing 100% accuracy rate in treadmill walking even for weak subjects and low walking speeds. The minimum success rate was of 94.8% in performing sittostand tasks. All the participants showed high confidence in using the transfemoral active prosthesis even without training period thanks to intuitiveness of the whole body awareness controller.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Neurorobotics
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - May 30 2017


  • Prosthetics control
  • Robotic prosthetics
  • Sensory fusion
  • Transfemoral amputation
  • Wearable sensors
  • Whole body awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence


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