New research from scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Draper, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based advanced technology company, seeks to understand how to develop more functional exoskeletons.
Despite the wide-ranging potential for a wearable system that offers the user increased strength, agility or endurance, the technology may not be developing as quickly as many hoped because human interaction is not being taken into account, said Kevin Duda, principal engineer and group lead for human systems integration at Draper.
Together with Leia Stirling, an assistant professor and co-director of the MIT Man Vehicle Laboratory, the company has been working to address human system integration challenges to building a functional system, he said. While current prototypes are designed to help the user climb stairs, increase strength and regain function, the automation necessary for the system to work can create added issues for the wearer.
"Imagine you're wearing this exoskeleton and the control theory is slightly off or it's doing something that you don't quite expect. You may sit there for a while and think, 'Why is it doing what it's doing?'" Duda said. That could increase the user's workload, causing distractions and reducing situational awareness, he added.
"If the system is not 'invisible' to you, it's...