A haptic feedback system for lower-limb prostheses.
A haptic feedback system has been developed to provide sensory information to patients with lower-limb prostheses or peripheral neuropathy. Piezoresistive force sensors were mounted against four critical contact points of the foot to collect and relay force information to a system controller, which in turn drives four corresponding pneumatically controlled balloon actuators. The silicone-based balloon actuators were mounted on a cuff worn on the middle thigh, with skin contacts on the posterior, anterior, medial, and lateral surfaces of the thigh. Actuator characterization and human perceptual testing were performed to determine the effectiveness of the system in providing tactile stimuli. The actuators were determined to have a monotonic input pressure-vertical deflection response. Six normal subjects wearing the actuator cuff were able to differentiate inflation patterns, directional stimuli and discriminate between three force levels with 99.0%, 94.8%, and 94.4% accuracy, respectively. With force sensors attached to a shoe insole worn by an operator, subjects were able to correctly indicate the movements of the operator with 95.8% accuracy. These results suggest that the pneumatic haptic feedback system design is a viable method to provide sensory feedback for the lower limbs.