Q2 Software Release: Less Noise, Better Emulation & Big Changes Ahead

August 3, 2021

Controller upgrades for cleaner, faster communication make Humotech’s Q2 release our most ambitious yet 

We are always working on improving the Caplex system and crafting a better user experience, and Humotech’s Q2 software release delivers on both. During the past few years we’ve been focused on streamlining the operator experience, leading in part to several upgrades to the GUI in our earlier software releases. The GUI gets some additional TLC this time around, but our 2021 Q2 release ushers in a series of major improvements to Humotech’s core competency: our controllers. 

Emulation is essentially about applying the right torque at the right time, and communication is key. With the upgrade, we’ve introduced features to reduce noise and improve/speed up communication with the actuator and wearable device. It’s a leap in the direction toward more accurate, reliable emulation and lays the foundation for a whole new level of the emulator’s performance. 

While the simple UI fixes in the release alone are worth the upgrade, if you want early access to the wave of new capability coming soon to our controllers, then this release is not to be missed!

Check out the main highlights and benefits below and view all of the release details here. Have an active software subscription? Head to our Help Center for update instructions. If you need a subscription extension, contact us to get started with your upgrade. 

Take Control With EtherCAT Actuator Communication

Tight control of the actuator is imperative to faithful emulation. Now, starting with the demo controller templateEthercat.slx and its libraries, communication between the control system and the actuator jumps from a simple channel to a high-performance digital protocol for motion control networks. With EtherCAT, we’ve made it easier than ever to make the switch from analog.

Here’s what you get when you replace the “analog in” cable with an ethernet cable: 

  • A cleaner signal. With a command signal that is immune to noise from EMI, you can reduce the need for filters that slow your emulator.
  • A smarter emulator. Equally clear access to the actuator’s instrumentation enables you to make your emulator more accurate by making your emulator smarter.
  • Monitor your actuator’s state. EtherCAT increases safety by communicating to the controller when the actuator is disabled, for example, due to a limit switch or E-Stop – avoid any unexpected or jarring events when the actuator switches back on!
  • Control your actuator’s state. The controller also now has the ability to instantly cut power to the actuator, not just lock it by turning the control enable off and waiting for the operator to push the E-STOP button. This is another tool for handling fault conditions more safely and reliably.

EtherCAT capability is an important piece in the move to a more digital Caplex system. Imagine upgrading from using a walkie-talkie straight to text message – templateEthercat.slx offers a big improvement that sidesteps the problem of noise altogether. Not only is communication with the actuator faster and more reliable, it’s also more versatile. Up to this point, the controller could only tell the actuator what speed to turn, and hope it listened. Now, it can also hear how fast the actuator actually turned, how far it has turned, and how hard it is working, as well as tell it to release.

And with the additional communication channels at the controller’s fingertips, it’s easier to make the actuator and wearable device work more closely together (eliminating the need for extra cables). For example, in the event of a locked-up exoskeleton where the subject feels uncomfortable, new controllers can depower the exoskeleton and let the subject move freely.

EtherCAT-ready, from controller to actuator.
A view from inside the Humotech actuator cabinet with EtherCAT connection.

Leaner, Faster I/O

Do you suspect the 1 kHz sample rate is holding back your controller’s bandwidth performance and torque-tracking accuracy? We’ve introduced templatePerformance.slx, a new controller  which demonstrates tricks to speed up the Speedgoat’s IO. The controller easily doubles communication speed with the wearable device, and our testing suggests a limit of about eight times faster with the prosthesis controller! 

Easy Recording Browsing

Tired of scrolling through a sea of faceless “FileScopeLog_date-numbers.hmt.mat” files? Now the GUI lets you name the recording yourself, for example “Subject10_date-numbers.hmt.mat”. 

We’re also adding a tool called RecordingsTable which prints a synopsis of several recordings. And if you’ve ever typed a long file path by hand into HumotechPlot(), you’ll be glad to know it now offers a standard browser window.

Master the GUI Controls

Several of your requests have been answered in the table improvements! For example, if you’ve ever forgotten to press the enter key after changing a parameter, the GUI now warns you that your change has not actually been applied yet.  Specific to our controller jargon, you can embed a cheat sheet directly into the GUI’s tables. And as we’ve announced on our community forum, some of the confusing parameters and signals in our controllers have been more clearly named.

Get All the Q2 Updates

Explore all the new capabilities in the Q2 release, including additional updates to the Controller, the GUI, and Utilities. View the release notes via your Humotech account and/or contact us directly at /(412) 301-5082. We’d be happy to walk you through the details and answer any questions.

We’d like to send a big thank you to all of our customers who have provided feedback and requests – keep ‘em coming! Your experience is key to helping us continue to provide innovative solutions to aid your research and development.

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