He said that while exosystems are generally designed to enhance biomechanical capabilities, like navigating uneven terrain, negotiating stairs and avoiding obstacles, “there are real complexities that arise as the automation creates new cognitive work for the wearer, such as attention, workload and situational awareness.”
Duda and colleagues conducted a research study and found that physical and cognitive fit were critical to improving the current approach to designing exosystem technologies.
Without the human-system integration, the study found, an exosystem can overtax a wearer’s resources.
In their research, the team identified seven cognitive factors that point to the need to strike a delicate balance between the exosystem’s ability to provide assistance and its need for guidance from the wearer.
The researchers framed the seven factors as questions developers should ask in designing and assessing exosystems.
For example, what workload does the user experience when performing the functional task with the system?
Does the system require significant attentional resources to interact with or command?
Among the most intriguing factors: the more trust a wearer has in the system—that is, the more the system conforms to the expectations of the wearer—the less input the wearer feels they need to provide.
“Our aim is to identify and eliminate the barriers to a viable exoskeleton system and find a balance between the system’s sensing, control and actuation,” said Duda.
“The ability for the exosystem to provide feedback to the human or adapt its response based on inferring the human’s intent is important for developing systems for environments of all kinds.”
“The goal for all of us developing wearable assistance technologies is to deliver a high level of human-exosystem fluency.”
The current work in exosystem technologies is designed to support the increased demands faced by warfighters and to advance soldier technology in the next decade.
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