Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Trejos, Ana Luisa


The potential for wearable mechatronic systems to assist with musculoskeletal rehabilitation of the upper limb has grown with the technology. One limiting factor to realizing the benefits of these devices as motion therapy tools is within the development of digital control solutions. Despite many device prototypes and research efforts in the surrounding fields, there are a lack of requirements, details, assessments, and comparisons of control system characteristics, components, and architectures in the literature. Pairing this with the complexity of humans, the devices, and their interactions makes it a difficult task for control system developers to determine the best solution for their desired applications. The objective of this thesis is to develop, evaluate, and compare control system solutions that are capable of tracking motion through the control of wearable mechatronic devices. Due to the immaturity of these devices, the design, implementation, and testing processes for the control systems is not well established. In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these processes, control system development and evaluation tools have been proposed. The Wearable Mechatronics-Enabled Control Software framework was developed to enable the implementation and comparison of different control software solutions presented in the literature. This framework reduces the amount of restructuring and modification required to complete these development tasks. An integration testing protocol was developed to isolate different aspects of the control systems during testing. A metric suite is proposed that expands on the existing literature and allows for the measurement of more control characteristics. Together, these tools were used ii ABSTRACT iii to developed, evaluate, and compare control system solutions. Using the developed control systems, a series of experiments were performed that involved tracking elbow motion using wearable mechatronic elbow devices. The accuracy and repeatability of the motion tracking performances, the adaptability of the control models, and the resource utilization of the digital systems were measured during these experiments. Statistical analysis was performed on these metrics to compare between experimental factors. The results of the tracking performances show some of the highest accuracies for elbow motion tracking with these devices. The statistical analysis revealed many factors that significantly impact the tracking performance, such as visual feedback, motion training, constrained motion, motion models, motion inputs, actuation components, and control outputs. Furthermore, the completion of the experiments resulted in three first-time studies, such as the comparison of muscle activation models and the quantification of control system task timing and data storage needs. The successes of these experiments highlight that accurate motion tracking, using biological signals of the user, is possible, but that many more efforts are needed to obtain control solutions that are robust to variations in the motion and characteristics of the user. To guide the future development of these control systems, a national survey was conducted of therapists regarding their patient data collection and analysis methods. From the results of this survey, a series of requirements for software systems, that allow therapists to interact with the control systems of these devices, were collected. Increasing the participation of therapists in the development processes of wearable assistive devices will help to produce better requirements for developers. This will allow the customization of control systems for specific therapies and patient characteristics, which will increase the benefit and adoption rate of these devices within musculoskeletal rehabilitation programs.