Perception of Gait Patterns that Deviate from Normal and Symmetric Biped Locomotion
Abstract - This study examines the range of gait patterns that are perceived as healthy and human-like with the goal of understanding how much asymmetry is allowable in a gait pattern before other people start to notice a gait impairment. Specifically, this study explores if certain abnormal walking patterns can be dismissed as unimpaired or not uncanny. Altering gait biomechanics is generally done in the fields of prosthetics and rehabilitation, however the perception of gait is often neglected. Although a certain gait can be functional, it may not be considered as normal by observers. On the other hand, an abnormally perceived gait may be more practical or necessary in some situations, such as limping after an injury or stroke and when wearing a prosthesis. This research will help to find the balance between the form and function of gait. Gait patterns are synthetically created using a passive dynamic walker (PDW) model that allows gait patterns to be systematically changed without the confounding influence from human sensorimotor feedback during walking. This standardized method allows the perception of specific changes in gait to be studied. The PDW model was used to produce walking patterns that showed a degree of abnormality in gait cadence, knee height, step length, and swing time created by changing the foot roll-over-shape, knee damping, knee location, and leg masses. The gait patterns were shown to participants who rated them according to separate scales of impairment and uncanniness. The results indicate that some pathological and asymmetric gait patterns are perceived as unimpaired and normal. Step time and step length asymmetries less than 5%, small knee location differences, and gait cadence changes of 25% do not result in a change in perception. The results also show that the parameters of a pathologically or uncanny perceived gait can be beneficially altered by increasing other independent parameters, in some sense masking the initial pathology.
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