The dilemma of subjective factors in the development of exoskeletons

Project description

Exoskeletons as support structures for the human body have entered the market in recent years. They offer a promising solution to some of the challenges facing our society and are being heavily promoted. However, despite their expected benefits, their use has so far been limited. My research examines the reasons behind people’s reluctance to use these devices from different perspectives, looking at both product development and the product itself.

The technology behind exoskeletons holds the potential to revolutionize various domains of society such as healthcare and the world of work. Such support structures can be used, for example, to alleviate physical strain, enhance performance, or compensate for impairments. Despite these promising prospects, their widespread adoption has not yet materialized as anticipated.

A key focus of my research is on the product development of exoskeletons. The following questions are at the forefront: How can current models be optimally adapted to the needs of users? What factors might prevent people from using them?

Another important approach in my work is people’s perceptions and attitudes toward exoskeletons. Psychosocial and sociocultural factors play a crucial role here. Understanding these factors and other possible barriers is fundamental for the further product development.

Exoskeletons can be conceptualized as complex machines or as complex socio-technical products. The former focuses on the physical aspects of interaction and the fulfillment of specific functions, while the latter focuses on the human being as a person with their nature and emotions. This dichotomy is evident in fields such as user experience design, where the product takes a back seat and the experience of the interaction and the resulting subjective value take center stage as the ultimate goals.

The research work highlights that the limited adoption of exoskeletons is not solely attributable to technological aspects but also to other factors that require further exploration. Optimizing product development proves to be an essential and critical step in unlocking the full potential of interacting with exoskeletons.

Administrative data

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Advisor: Prof. António Brandão Moniz
Doctoral students at ITAS: see Doctoral studies at ITAS


Jérémy Lefint
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26534