In the last two decades, numerous powered ankle-foot orthoses have been developed. Despite similar designs and control strategies being shared by some of these devices, their performance in terms of achieving a comparable goal varies. It has been shown that the effect of powered ankle-foot orthoses on healthy users is altered by some factors of the testing protocol. This paper provides an overview of the effect of powered walking on healthy and weakened users. It identifies a set of key factors influencing the performance of powered ankle-foot orthoses, and it presents the effects of these factors on healthy subjects, highlighting the similarities and differences of the results obtained in different works. Furthermore, the outcomes of studies performed on elderly and impaired subjects walking with powered ankle-foot orthoses are compared, to outline the effects of powered walking on these users. This article shows that several factors mutually influence the performance of powered ankle-foot orthoses on their users and, for this reason, the determination of their effects on the user is not straightforward. One of the key factors is the adaptation of users to provided assistance. This factor is very important for the assessment of the effects of powered ankle-foot orthoses on users, however, it is not always reported by studies. Moreover, future works should report, together with the results, the list of influencing factors used in the protocol, to facilitate the comparison of the obtained results. This article also underlines the need for a standardized method to benchmark the actuators of powered ankle-foot orthoses, which would ease the comparison of results between the performed studies. In this paper, the lack of studies on elderly and impaired subjects is highlighted. The insufficiency of these studies makes it difficult to assess the effects of powered ankle-foot orthoses on these users. To summarize, this article provides a detailed overview of the work performed on powered ankle-foot orthoses, presenting and analyzing the results obtained, but also emphasizing topics on which more research is still required.
- Powered ankle-foot orthosis
- Wearable robots