About this Research Topic
The use of exoskeletons is garnering increased interest in various different areas and sectors, from rehabilitation to industrial applications. Most previous developments have been based on classical robotics technologies and are typically built from rigid structures with electric or hydraulic actuation systems. While these are more mature technologies and these systems are able to offer a high degree of support, the drawbacks from the point of view of wearability and usability are difficult to overcome, mostly due to weight and comfort.
Recently, there have been several important developments in the area of soft robotics, including, but not limited to, sensing, actuation, and control, which are allowing the development of soft exoskeletons, also called exosuits. These devices are being developed for (i) military applications, for the improvement of the mobility capabilities of soldiers, (ii) medical applications, for use assisting people with minor to moderate impairments, and (iii) industrial applications, for the reduction of operator physical exertion.
However, it is still a very challenging task to develop an exosuit. On one side, the actuation system needs to be adapted to the soft characteristics of the exosuit. For example, classical actuation technologies can be combined with a cable-driven mechanism in order to transmit the assistive forces to the user. Pneumatic actuation is also commonly used, mostly because it is a more suitable technology by nature. Novel technologies based on smart materials (for example Shape Memory Alloys) are also possible; however, it is difficult to meet the assistance requirements with their performance. The second aspect is the sensing technologies which, due to the physical properties of the soft components, also present very important challenges. The particular characteristics of the sensors and actuators imply the need for a specific control system.
User interfaces that facilitate the use of wearable assistive devices must also be developed to ensure their success and adoption across industries. Additionally, very little is known about how such devices are used and perceived by users and organizations. Field and laboratory evaluations of these systems with human subjects using quantitative and/or qualitative methods can inform the future design of these technologies as well as help us understand their impact on human productivity and health and well-being.
Contributions to the Research Topic might focus on the following areas of interest, but are not restricted to:
• Soft exoskeletons and exosuits
• Soft sensors
• Smart actuation
• Cable-driven actuation
• Pneumatic actuation
• Quasi-passive systems actuation and control
• Evaluation of soft wearable assistive devices
• User interfaces for wearable assistive devices
• User studies of wearable assistive devices to assess task support, usability, and user experience
• Organizational or case studies of wearable assistive device use and adoption
Keywords: Exoskeletons, Exosuits, Soft Sensors, Smart Actuation, Control
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.