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Acceptability and task-specific efficacy of exoskeletons in industrial working environments.

  • Project Period: 10/2020 - 03/2024
  • Funders: Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) 
  • Project Partners: LIT Robopsychology Lab (Lead), awb Schraubtechnik- und Industriebedarf GmbH

Diseases of the musculoskeletal system are among the most frequent causes of sickness leave in Austria. In view of increasingly older workforces, industrial companies in particular recognise the need to reduce physical strain on employees and to counteract the health consequences of unfavourable work movements or postures. In this context, exoskeletons are becoming increasingly important as new technical aids for maintaining work ability and health.

Exoskeletons are physical assistance systems that are worn directly on the body and are intended to help reduce work-related musculoskeletal stress. Previous research on exoskeletons has focused strongly on technical feasibility studies. To date, however, it is still unclear

  • how this technology is perceived in general and in relation to alternative assistance systems,
  • under which conditions workers are willing to use exoskeletons at all,
  • what effect wearing exoskeletons has on their perceived work ability and
  • which technology-, person- and context-specific factors are decisive for the short-term and long-term acceptance of exoskeletons.

This open need for research represents a major hurdle to the successful implementation of exoskeletons in industrial enterprises. This is where the ExoBility project comes in as a cooperation between the LIT Robopsychology Lab of the Johannes Kepler University Linz and the awb Schraubtechnik und Industriebedarf GmbH with a clearly user-centered research approach.

Through field studies in the real working environment of several Austrian industrial companies, acceptability as well as essential acceptance factors for the use of the technology are investigated and with the direct involvement of users fed back to manufacturer and user companies in the form of practical design and implementation guidelines. In addition, an exo roadmap will be made available to the Austrian business and research landscape as a comprehensive status quo survey and potential analysis of the still young field of exoskeleton technology. All in all, the ExoBility project is intended to help bring the needs of employees even closer to the focus of future technology-supported working environments.