Case study: A bio-inspired control algorithm for a robotic foot-ankle prosthesis provides adaptive control of level walking and stair ascent

Uzma Tahir, Anthony L. Hessel, Eric R. Lockwood, John Tester, Zhixiu Han, Daniel J. Rivera, Kaitlyn L. Covey, Thomas G. Huck, Nicole A. Rice, Kiisa C Nishikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Powered ankle-foot prostheses assist users through plantarflexion during stance and dorsiflexion during swing. Provision of motor power permits faster preferred walking speeds than passive devices, but use of active motor power raises the issue of control. While several commercially available algorithms provide torque control for many intended activities and variations of terrain, control approaches typically exhibit no inherent adaptation. In contrast, muscles adapt instantaneously to changes in load without sensory feedback due to the intrinsic property that their stiffness changes with length and velocity. We previously developed a "winding filament" hypothesis (WFH) for muscle contraction that accounts for intrinsic muscle properties by incorporating the giant titin protein. The goals of this study were to develop a WFH-based control algorithm for a powered prosthesis and to test its robustness during level walking and stair ascent in a case study of two subjects with 4-5 years of experience using a powered prosthesis. In the WFH algorithm, ankle moments produced by virtual muscles are calculated based on muscle length and activation. Net ankle moment determines the current applied to the motor. Using this algorithm implemented in a BiOM T2 prosthesis, we tested subjects during level walking and stair ascent. During level walking at variable speeds, the WFH algorithm produced plantarflexion angles (range = -8 to -19°) and ankle moments (range = 1 to 1.5 Nm/kg) similar to those produced by the BiOM T2 stock controller and to people with no amputation. During stair ascent, the WFH algorithm produced plantarflexion angles (range -15 to -19°) that were similar to persons with no amputation and were ~5 times larger on average at 80 steps/min than those produced by the stock controller. This case study provides proof-of-concept that, by emulating muscle properties, the WFH algorithm provides robust, adaptive control of level walking at variable speed and stair ascent with minimal sensing and no change in parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalFrontiers Robotics AI
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018



  • Biomechanics
  • Level walking
  • Muscle model
  • Powered prosthesis
  • Preflex
  • Stair ascent
  • Trans-tibial amputation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications

Cite this