Date of Award

Summer 2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering - (M.S.)

Department

Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Committee ChairRichard A. Foulds

Second Advisor

Sergei Adamovich

Third Advisor

Mesut Sahin

Abstract

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a means by which paraplegic men and women can use their natural legs for walking. In FES the impaired muscles are stimulated with electricity in a proper cycle to cause the legs to move in a walking pattern. It can be greatly beneficial for paraplegics however, current systems are not widely used because they are difficult to control in a useful manner.

The system proposed here uses a haptic interface, one that utilizes the sense of touch, attached to a user’s index and middle fingers. The haptic device allows the wearer to feel with the fingers what would normally be felt by the feet. Movement of the fingers is monitored and the positions of the two fingertips can be used to dictate the appropriate positions for the feet to be moved to using FES. Therefore, by moving the fingers in a cyclic pattern similar to that of walking, a stimulation pattern needed for activation of leg muscles to allow walking can be generated. Further, by having the sense of feeling for the feet translated to the fingers a person could have improved control over their legs.

To test the feasibility of this system a virtual simulation was developed. The simulation navigated a virtual environment using the finger walking technique. The trajectory and velocity of the movements of the subjects was compared to normal human gait and it was found that finger walking greatly resembles natural human gait. Further, it was determined that control was enhanced by haptic feedback. These results show that FES walking can benefit from a controller that incorporates haptics.

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