Designing Exoskeletons and Prosthetic Limbs That Enhance Human Locomotor Performance

Seminar | September 13 | 1:30-2:30 p.m. | 3110 Etcheverry Hall

 Associate Professor Steve Collins, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

 Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME)

Abstract: Exoskeletons and active prosthetic limbs could improve mobility for tens of millions of people, but two serious challenges must first be overcome: we need ways of identifying what a device should do to benefit an individual user, and we need cheap, efficient hardware that can do it. In this talk, we will describe an approach to the design of wearable robots based on versatile emulator systems and algorithms that automatically customize assistance, which we call human-in-the-loop optimization. We will discuss recent successes of the approach, like improving the energy economy and speed of walking and running by 24% to 45% through optimized exoskeleton assistance. We will also discuss the design of exoskeletons that use no energy themselves yet reduce the energy cost of human walking, and ultra-efficient electroadhesive actuators that could make wearable robots substantially cheaper and more efficient.

Biography: Steve Collins is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, where he teaches courses on design and robotics and directs the Stanford Biomechatronics Laboratory. He and his team develop wearable robotic devices to improve the efficiency, speed and balance of walking and running, especially for people with disabilities such as amputation or stroke. Their primary focus is to speed and systematize the design process itself by developing and using versatile prosthesis and exoskeleton emulator hardware and algorithms for human-in-the-loop optimization. They also develop efficient autonomous devices, such as energy-efficient walking robots, ultra-low-power electroadhesive clutches and unpowered exoskeletons that reduce the energy cost of walking. More information at:, 510-642-1338