The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) invites public comment on a proposed data collection regarding an analysis of exoskeleton use for enhancing human performance.
Exoskeletons—sometimes called wearable robots—are a very rapidly expanding domain with a range of applications and a broad diversity of designs. NIST's Engineering Laboratory will be developing methods to evaluate performance of exoskeletons in two key areas (1) The fit and motion of the exoskeleton device with respect to the users' body and (2) The impact that using an exoskeleton has on the performance of users executing tasks that are representative of activities in industrial settings. The results of these experiments will inform future test method development at NIST, other organizations, and under the purview of the new American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) Committee F48 on Exoskeletons and Exosuits.
For the first research topic, NIST will evaluate the usefulness of a NIST prototype apparatus for measuring the difference in performance of a person wearing an exoskeleton versus the person's baseline without the exoskeleton while positioning loads and tools. The NIST Position and Load Test Apparatus for Exoskelons (PoLoTAE), which presents abstractions of industrial task challenges, will be evaluated in this research.
For the second research topic, NIST will evaluate a method for measuring the alignment of an exoskeleton to human joint (knee) and any relative movement between the exoskeleton and user. Measurement methods prototyped by NIST for evaluating exoskeleton on mannequin position and motion will be applied to human subjects to verify the usefulness of optical tracking system and designed artifacts worn by users as measurement methods.
Participants will be chosen from volunteers within NIST and adult NIST visitors to participate in the study. Gender and size diversity will be sought in the population of participants. No personally identifiable information (PII) will be recorded unless subject consent for PII disclosure is received. NIST intends to publish information on the analysis and results.
Participants will give informed consent prior to participating in the research. Information may be collected via a paper background questionnaire which may include disclosure of health information which may be relevant for safety and research reasons. Data will be collected using a combination of heart rate monitor, and video and still cameras to collect time and subject activity to correlate heart rate with activity and an optical tracking system which detects markers. Participants will be asked to complete a paper survey once data is collected for the research.
Members of the public may submit comments about this proposed data collection by mail or email. More information is available at this Federal Register notice.