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Physical demands and learning associated with using a state-of-the-art whole-body powered exoskeleton

Dr. Divya Srinivasan
Associate Professor in the Industrial & Systems Engineering Department
Virginia Tech
Friday, February 19, 2021 3:30-4:20pm


While passive exoskeletons are rapidly proliferating in industrial research and practice, despite the rapid development of powered exoskeleton technologies in recent years, little is known about how a complex whole-body system interacts with, and influences human operators. As an initial step towards facilitating the practical adoption and assessment of powered exoskeletons in industrial environments, two studies were completed. The first study aimed to assess how using a whole-body powered exoskeleton affects physical demands of expert human operators. Seven expert participants (5M, 2F) performed two industry-relevant tasks – bilateral load carriage and repeated one-handed lifting/lowering – both with and without the exoskeleton. Participants completed the load carriage task at five different load levels and the lifting/lowering task at 7 different load levels, ranging from low (~ 5kg) to high (~50 kg). Results on muscle activities of trunk and leg musculature will be reported. The second study aimed to capture the change in muscle activities and kinematics as novice operators learnt to operate a complex exoskeleton, over repeated sessions. Seven (7M) novice operators were introduced to, and trained in the use of the exoskeleton over 5 sessions; to perform a range of tasks including gait (level, ramp and step up/down/over), load carriage, and manual material handling. Key results of how muscle activities and control strategies changed, as individuals learnt to operate the exoskeleton better over repeated sessions, will be summarized.


Dr. Srinivasan is an Associate Professor in the Industrial & Systems Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. With a background in human factors, motor control and biomechanics, her research focuses on assessments and improvement of human health and performance in occupational settings. Over the last 5 years, her work is increasingly focused on investigating the effects of active and passive exoskeletons on human physical and cognitive demands, and control strategies, with the goals of improving both design as well as applications of these devices in diverse industrial domains. These efforts are variously supported by federal agencies such as NSF and NIOSH, as well as industry partners in manufacturing, construction, agriculture as well as emergency response.