The project consists in the design and implementation of a lower limb exoskeleton for the rehabilitation of joint mobility and locomotion of pediatric subjects with neurological diseases such as Spinal Cord Injury, ictus or Cerebral Palsy. The device will consist of a knee and an ankle rehabilitation module characterized by an impedance control and capable of operating synchronously and synergistically. Several research groups have worked on the development of an exoskeleton for the recovery of locomotion. The ITINERE exoskeleton, however, introduces four relevant differences: (1) The ITINERE exoskeleton will be a modular device, manufactured with two distinct modules, where each module can work in a standalone scenario or together with the other one; (2) the function of the ITINERE exoskeleton is the rehabilitation of the joint mobility and not to augment the performance of healthy subjects during walking; (3) The ITINERE exoskeleton will be designed for pediatric subjects; (4) The ITINERE exoskeleton will be also a measurement system in order to evaluate the kinematics and kinetics of subjects during locomotion.
The aims of the ITINERE project are the design of the exoskeleton and its utilization during rehabilitation therapies. Therefore, the schedule of ITINERE project can be summarized into four workpackages:
1. Preliminary study: end user requirements. It is focused on the individuation of the end user requirements that will characterize the technical specification of the exoskeleton and the optimal robotic rehabilitation therapies capable of improving the joint mobility and the locomotion. Several gait analysis on healthy subjects and patients with and without the usual orthotic device prescribed by the clinical staff will characterize the present workpackage.
2. Robotic device for the recovery of ankle and knee joint mobility. The main objective of the present workpackage is the development of the ankle and knee modules of the ITINERE exoskeleton. The first step is the choice of the optimal kinematic schemes with minimum bulk and weight, limited complexity, and characterized by a sufficiently large range of joint motion coherent with the locomotion kinematics; the design must take into account the ergonomics and the safety of the children. The second step consists in the choice and the design of the additional body sensors which will be mounted on the exoskeleton for the evaluation of gait kinematics. The last step is the development of a low level framework with the implementation of the control loops and the integration of the two modules with the additional body sensors.
3. Workstation integration. This workpackage is focused on the development of a first software package (high level framework), needed to configure and monitor the available resources of the exoskeleton, and a second one (user level framework) which consists of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to select the best rehabilitation scenario and to permit a visual feedback for the patients. Moreover a software for database management will be implemented.
4. User evaluation in clinical environment. The aim of this phase is the utilization of the ITINERE in robotic therapy. The subjects involved will undergo a 10 days/sessions treatment for 2 months with the exoskeleton and their progress will be monitored using the same protocols developed within the “Preliminary study” workpackage.
The ITINERE exoskeleton will be carried out by the engineering staff of the "Measurement Laboratory" of the Department of Mechanics and Aeronautics "Sapienza" University of Rome and the medical staff of the “Movement and Robotics Laboratory” of the Children’s Hospital “BAMBINO GESÙ”.