A deep analysis of ankle mechanical properties is a fundamental step in the design of an exoskeleton, especially if it is to be suitable for both adults and children. This study aims at assessing age-related differences of ankle properties using pediAnklebot. To achieve this aim, we enrolled 16 young adults and 10 children in an experimental protocol that consisted of the evaluation of ankle mechanical impedance and kinematic performance. Ankle impedance was measured by imposing stochastic torque perturbations in dorsi-plantarflexion and inversion-eversion directions. Kinematic performance was assessed by asking participants to perform a goal-directed task. Magnitude and anisotropy of impedance were computed using a multiple-input multiple-output system. Kinematic performance was quantified by computing indices of accuracy, smoothness, and timing. Adults showed greater magnitude of ankle impedance in both directions and for all frequencies, while the anisotropy was higher in children. By analyzing kinematics, children performed movements with lower accuracy and higher smoothness, while no differences were found for the duration of the movement. In addition, adults showed a greater ability to stop the movement when hitting the target. These findings can be useful to a proper development of robotic devices, as well as for implementation of specific training programs.
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