Learning from demonstration: Teaching a myoelectric prosthesis with an intact limb via reinforcement learning

Gautham Vasan, Patrick M Pilarski
IEEE ... International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics: [proceedings] 2017, 2017: 1457-1464
Prosthetic arms should restore and extend the capabilities of someone with an amputation. They should move naturally and be able to perform elegant, coordinated movements that approximate those of a biological arm. Despite these objectives, the control of modern-day prostheses is often nonintuitive and taxing. Existing devices and control approaches do not yet give users the ability to effect highly synergistic movements during their daily-life control of a prosthetic device. As a step towards improving the control of prosthetic arms and hands, we introduce an intuitive approach to training a prosthetic control system that helps a user achieve hard-to-engineer control behaviours. Specifically, we present an actor-critic reinforcement learning method that for the first time promises to allow someone with an amputation to use their non-amputated arm to teach their prosthetic arm how to move through a wide range of coordinated motions and grasp patterns. We evaluate our method during the myoelectric control of a multi-joint robot arm by non-amputee users, and demonstrate that by using our approach a user can train their arm to perform simultaneous gestures and movements in all three degrees of freedom in the robot's hand and wrist based only on information sampled from the robot and the user's above-elbow myoelectric signals. Our results indicate that this learning-from-demonstration paradigm may be well suited to use by both patients and clinicians with minimal technical knowledge, as it allows a user to personalize the control of his or her prosthesis without having to know the underlying mechanics of the prosthetic limb. These preliminary results also suggest that our approach may extend in a straightforward way to next-generation prostheses with precise finger and wrist control, such that these devices may someday allow users to perform fluid and intuitive movements like playing the piano, catching a ball, and comfortably shaking hands.


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