2021/12 Development and Evaluation of BenchBalance: A System for Benchmarking Balance Capabilities of Wearable Robots and Their Users


“Recent advances in the control of overground exoskeletons are being centered on improving balance support and decreasing the reliance on crutches. However, appropriate methods to quantify the stability of these exoskeletons (and their users) are still under development. A reliable and reproducible balance assessment is critical to enrich exoskeletons’ performance and their interaction with humans. In this work, we present the BenchBalance system, which is a benchmarking solution to conduct reproducible balance assessments of exoskeletons and their users. Integrating two key elements, i.e., a hand-held perturbator and a smart garment, BenchBalance is a portable and low-cost system that provides a quantitative assessment related to the reaction and capacity of wearable exoskeletons and their users to respond to controlled external perturbations. A software interface is used to guide the experimenter throughout a predefined protocol of measurable perturbations, taking into account antero-posterior and mediolateral responses. In total, the protocol is composed of sixteen perturbation conditions, which vary in magnitude and location while still controlling their orientation. The data acquired by the interface are classified and saved for a subsequent analysis based on synthetic metrics. In this paper, we present a proof of principle of the BenchBalance system with a healthy user in two scenarios: subject not wearing and subject wearing the H2 lower-limb exoskeleton. After a brief training period, the experimenter was able to provide the manual perturbations of the protocol in a consistent and reproducible way. The balance metrics defined within the BenchBalance framework were able to detect differences in performance depending on the perturbation magnitude, location, and the presence or not of the exoskeleton. The BenchBalance system will be integrated at EUROBENCH facilities to benchmark the balance capabilities of wearable exoskeletons and their users.”