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Research Papers

Exploring the Tactor Configurations of Vibrotactile Feedback Systems for Use in Lower-Limb Prostheses1

[+] Author and Article Information
Sam Shi

Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering,
University of Toronto,
Toronto, ON M5S 3G9, Canada
e-mail: shuai.shi@mail.utoronto.ca

Matthew J. Leineweber

Department of Biomedical Engineering,
San Jose State University,
San Jose, CA 95192
e-mail: matthew.leineweber@sjsu.edu

Jan Andrysek

Bloorview Research Institute,
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital,
Toronto, ON M4G 1R8, Canada
e-mail: jandrysek@hollandbloorview.ca

Contributed by the Technical Committee on Vibration and Sound of ASME for publication in the Journal of Vibration and Acoustics. Manuscript received June 1, 2018; final manuscript received April 17, 2019; published online June 5, 2019. Assoc. Editor: Miao Yu.

J. Vib. Acoust 141(5), 051009 (Jun 05, 2019) (10 pages) Paper No: VIB-18-1236; doi: 10.1115/1.4043610 History: Received June 01, 2018; Accepted April 18, 2019

Vibrotactile feedback may be able to compensate for the loss of sensory input in lower-limb prosthesis users to improve the mobility function. Designing an effective vibrotactile feedback system requires that users are able to perceive and respond to vibrotactile stimuli correctly and in a timely manner. Our study explored four key tactor configuration variables (i.e., tactors’ prosthetic layer, vibration intensity, prosthetic pressure, and spacing between adjacent tactors) through two experiments. The vibration propagation experiment investigated the effects of tactor configurations on vibration amplitude at the prosthesis–limb interface. Results revealed a positive relationship between vibration amplitude and intensity and a weak relationship between vibration amplitude and prosthetic pressure. Highest vibration amplitudes were observed when the tactor was located on the inner socket layer. The second experiment involving a sample of ten able-bodied and three amputee subjects investigated the effects of tactor configurations on user perception measured by response time, accuracy identifying tactors’ stimulation patterns, and spatial error in locating the tactors. Results showed that placing the tactors on the inner socket layer, greater spacing between adjacent tactors, and higher vibration intensity resulted in better user perception. The above findings can be directly applied to the design of vibrotactile feedback systems to increase the user response accuracy and decrease the response time required for dynamic tasks such as gait. They can also help to inform future clinical trials informing the optimization of tactor configuration variables.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

(a) Pressure at the prosthetic interface is being measured, (b) an example of the 2-kPa pressure level output, and (c) an example of the 4-kPa pressure level output

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Fig. 2

Position of the tactors and accelerometers on the socket emulator for the two experiments. Each square represents an area of 1 cm × 1 cm. (a) Tactor and accelerometer arrangement in the vibration propagation experiment. (b) Tactor arrangement in the user perception experiment.

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Fig. 3

Setup of the equipment and personnel in the user perception experiment

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Fig. 4

Results from the vibration propagation experiment. Each figure displays vibration amplitude versus distance plots for four pressure/intensity conditions over three sessions, with the tactor placed on one of the three layers. Each line consists of five points, each representing mean vibration amplitude over five trials in a session, measured at one of the five distances from the tactor. (a) Results with the tactor on the inner socket layer, (b) results with the tactor on the liner socket layer, and (c) results with the tactor on the outer socket layer.

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Fig. 5

Results from the user perception experiment. Each bar represents the mean of the ten able-bodied subjects with standard deviation indicated by the error bar. “*” on a bracket indicates that the difference between the two pressure and intensity levels is statistically significant (p < 0.05). The results of the three amputee subjects are appended as single points (square for amputee A, triangle for amputee B, and circle for amputee C). (a) The subjects' response time for various layer, pressure, and intensity conditions. (b) The subjects' response accuracy for various layer, pressure, and intensity conditions. (c) The subjects' locating error for various layer, pressure, and intensity conditions.

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Fig. 6

Breakdown of trials with incorrect responses by stimulation pattern (able-bodied subjects only)

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