User-centered Design and Evaluation of Physical Interfaces for an Exoskeleton for Paraplegic Users

Over the last decade, the use of wearable exoskeletons for human locomotion assistance has become more feasible. The VariLeg powered lower limb robotic exoskeleton is an example of such systems, potentially enabling paraplegic users to perform upright activities of daily living. The acceptance of this type of robotic assistive technologies is often still affected by limited usability, in particular regarding the physical interface between the exoskeleton and the user (here referred to as pilot). In this study, we proposed and evaluated a novel pilot attachment system (PAS), which was designed based on user-centered design with experienced paraplegic exoskeleton users. Subjective assessments to compare usability aspects of the initial and the redesigned physical interfaces were conducted with two paraplegic and five healthy pilots. The redesigned PAS showed a 45% increase in the system usability scale (SUS), normalized to the PAS of a commercial exoskeleton assessed in the same manner. Pain rating scales assessed with healthy pilots indicated an increased comfort using the redesigned PAS while performing several activities of daily living. Overall, an improvement in usability relative to the initial PAS was achieved through intensified user evaluation and individual needs assessments. Hence, a user-centered design of physical body-machine interfaces has the potential to positively influence the usability and acceptance of lower limb exoskeletons for paraplegic users.

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2019 IEEE 16th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR), Toronto, ON, Canada,, June 24-28, 2019
Jul 29 2019
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 Record created 2019-10-31, last modified 2019-11-06

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