This cross-disciplinary research involving cyber-physical systems (CPS), wearable robotics, physical therapy and functional apparel aims to design and validate a robotic apparel human-in-the-loop CPS for restoring automaticity and synchronization of movement for individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD) in community settings. Additionally, integrated wearable sensors will facilitate data analytics to assess gait performance during everyday activities and communicate this to the wearer and their caregiver. The prevalence of PD is expected to double to 9 million by 2030. Degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of the midbrain lead to a loss of the normal internal cueing mechanism for gait that leads to impaired regulation of stride length, reduced gait speed, altered cadence and stride time variability. Science of Robotic Apparel Human-in-the-Loop CPS: The hypothesis is that individuals with PD may benefit from a robotic apparel CPS able to provide continuous physical cueing to the hip/ankle to prevent gait from deteriorating while not imparting a cognitive load. Auditory, visual and verbal cues have shown promise in regulating gait characteristics of persons with PD but require attention, thus interfering with daily activities. In contrast, a robotic apparel CPS will do so in a manner that is less perceptible. Technology for Robotic Apparel Human-in-the-Loop CPS: The technical requirements for actuation, sensors, and functional apparel needed to realize the proposed robotic apparel CPS vision are different than those for traditional exoskeletons, necessitating fundamental technological development to enable systems that can deliver small physical cues to a wearer through lightweight, comfortable and nonrestrictive platform. Engineering of Robotic Apparel Human-in-the-Loop CPS: This project will involve the engineering development of a novel CPS system across its lifespan from initial conceptual design to eventual validation in human subjects testing. An iterative development process of actuation/textile/control components will be based on target specifications guided by the knowledge gained from ongoing human subject testing.
Cyber-physical systems that interact with humans are becoming increasingly commonplace and have significant potential for society. We believe that individuals with Parkinson's Disease may benefit from a robotic apparel able to provide continuous physical cueing to the hip/ankle to prevent gait from deteriorating while not imparting a cognitive load.