About this Research Topic
Highly performing, environmental friendly and socially sustainable: the key features of the factories of the future have been described in the H2020 program and will lead to the development of new enabling technologies. For example, designing innovative tools with a human-centered approach will identify the needs of the workers, consider human factors in the design process and get the end-users feedback to improve their design iteratively. Wearable exoskeletons for movement assistance or augmentation will play a fundamental role for empowering the workers, by reducing work-related musculoskeletal injuries, lowering the effort and reducing the earlier onset of fatigue in certain repetitive tasks, and in some cases even increasing the productivity. Potentially robotic exoskeletons can find a huge number of application scenarios such as construction sites, warehouses, production lines, agriculture field and hospitals; however, despite the huge potential, there are no examples of exoskeletons that have been adopted by industries in a large scale. On one side a poor human-centered design, in which ergonomics, acceptability and usability are not sufficiently taken into account, is critical. On the other side the low benefit-cost ratio prevents the “mass adoption” of this technology: the usability in real application scenarios is often missing and it is not clear whether the use of exoskeletons would really improve the workers’ quality of life.
The objective of this Research Topic is to foster the discussion on the design and experimental validation of wearable exoskeletons for manufacturing applications. We call for all research articles, review papers, brief communications, and commentary on topics related to new designs, innovative control strategies, application scenarios and experimental validation of wearable exoskeletons in manufacturing, with emphasis on human-in-the-loop experimentations. This Research Topic seeks to highlight the most recent efforts to investigate the device usability and the importance of human factors for their design and acceptability in the real application scenarios.
This Research Topic is recommended by the COST Action CA16116 “Wearable Robots for Augmentation, Assistance or Substitution of Human Motor Functions” http://wearablerobots.eu/
Keywords: exoskeletons, manufacturing, factory of the future, human factors, human-centered design
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