top of page

Exoskeletons Track
Track Chair: Chris Reid, The Boeing Company
Sponsored by ASTM Exo Technology Center of Excellence

Theme: Blending Worlds - The Evolving Ecosystem of Exoskeletons

  • This year’s event continues on the iterative lessons learned since 2018 and how we can leverage our changing ecosystem for advancing human centered design exosystems that are safe and effective

  • Hear from our Keynote Presenter, Dr. Thomas Karakolis from Defence Research & Development Canada on “Military Exoskeletons: What will it take for them to be adopted?”

  • Plan your 2023 strategy as you listen to the latest insights from industry, government, and academic experts on design, evaluation, implementation, use, and standards development

  • Engage and network with leaders from the exoskeleton community that includes exhibitors, producers, consumers, and researchers in the field during planned social networking events

Keynote Presenter
Thomas Karakolis Photo_edited.jpg
Military Exoskeletons: What Will it Take for Them to be Adopted?
Thomas Karakolis, Canadian Department of National Defence


Dr. Thomas Karakolis is a Defence Scientist with the Canadian Department of National Defence. He is currently working for Defence Research & Development Canada’s (DRDC) Toronto Research Centre. His research interests focus on quantifying the operational performance benefits and drawbacks for both in-service and novel military equipment. For the past seven years, Dr. Karakolis has been the National Lead for Exoskeleton Technologies at DRDC. During this time he has authored a book chapter outlining, “A Roadmap for Biomechanical Testing and Evaluation of Future Human Exoskeletons with Respect to Soldier Performance,” as well as authored/co-authored multiple peer-reviewed journal papers and reports in the field of testing and evaluating military exoskeletons. He also continues to work with his national and international partners/collaborators in the area, advocating the need for a paradigm shift in the development of military exoskeletons. Beyond his work specifically on exoskeletons, Dr. Karakolis also has broader interest in the areas of soldier performance, health, and survivability. Specifically, he has recently published on the topic of using an IMU based motion capture system to better characterize soldier movement patterns, and a qualitative systematic review examining the risk factors for musculoskeletal injuries in the military. The later work was a direct result of his role as co-chair for a NATO Research Task Group on Reducing Musculoskeletal Injuries in the Military.   

Track Program
*Please see the Presenters & Bios Page for presenter biographies.

Saturday, October 15th


8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

8:30 AM - 8:40 AM

8:40 AM - 8:50 AM

8:51 AM - 9:01 AM 

9:02 AM - 9:12 AM

9:13 Am - 9:23 AM 

9:23 Am - 9:40 AM

10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

10:30 AM - 10:32 AM

10:32 AM - 10:40 AM 



10:40 AM - 10:50 AM

10:50 AM - 11:00 AM

11:00 AM - 11:10 AM

11:10 AM - 11:20 AM

11:20 Am - 11:28 AM 

11:28 AM - 11:30 AM

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

1:00 PM - 1:10 PM

1:11 PM - 1:21 PM

1:22 PM - 1:32 PM 

1:33 PM - 2:00 PM

2:00 PM -3:00 PM

2:05 PM - 2:15 

2:16 PM - 2:26 PM

2:27 PM - 2:37 PM

2:38 PM - 2:48 PM

2:48 PM - 3:05 PM

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM



Opening & Research Methods 1 - Human Research Evaluations: Lab & Field Findings

Moderator: Bill Marras, Ohio State University

Welcome and Introduction

Christopher R. Reid, The Boeing Company

Brain-Machine Interfaces to Powered Exoskeletons to Improve Quality of Life and Independence in People with Disabilities

Jose ‘Pepe’ Contreras-Vidal, PhD, University of Houston

Noninvasive brain-machine interfaces (BMI) can be designed to engage the user, promote plasticity, and understand human-device interaction. BMI systems can be designed to infer motor intent from brain activity to control upper and lower-limb medical exoskeletons for diagnostic, assistance and rehabilitation purposes. BMI systems may also provide an opportunity to mitigate risks posed by exoskeletons, such as the risk of falls or user's errors; thus, making medical exoskeletons a technology to support the user's independence and learning during cognitive-motor development (in children) or activities of daily living at work, play or home.

Developing and Field-Testing Back Exosuits with U.S. Army Soldiers 

Paul Slaughter, Vanderbilt University

Paul will discuss a partnership between Vanderbilt University and the U.S. Army which evaluated the physical demands of field artillery Soldiers, then developed and field-tested military-specific exosuits in collaboration with Soldiers. The talk will address musculoskeletal overuse injuries in the Army, physical limitations and overburdening identified by Soldiers, iterative prototype development, Soldier touch points, and field testing, including results from Soldiers wearing back exosuits during a combat-realistic live fire exercise.

Field Assessment of an Arm-Support Exoskeleton in Automotive Assembly

Sunwook Kim, Virginia Tech University; Maury A. Nussbaum, Virginia Tech University; Marty Smets, Ford Motor Company

An increased risk of shoulder musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is associated with prolonged or repetitive arm elevation, but reducing exposures to this risk can be challenging. Arm-support exoskeletons (ASEs) are a promising intervention, as they may reduce physical effort and MSD risks. Nearly all reported studies, though, have been completed over brief durations and/or in laboratory settings. The longer-term, real-world consequences of ASE use are largely unknown. We completed an 18-month prospective assessment of one ASE among automobile-assembly workers in several facilities, performing overhead tasks. We found that: 1) usability responses were generally consistent over time; 2) ASE use was perceived effective at reducing physical demands in the upper extremity; 3) perceived job performance and fit/comfort were key drivers of ASE intention-to-use; and 4) ASE use may decrease the likelihood of a medical visit. Several “lessons learned” will be also shared related to the challenges experienced in such a field study. 

Human-System Integration and Performance Assessment of Exoskeletons for Military Applications

Jennifer Neugebauer Sperlein, DEVCOM Analysis Center

Exoskeletons have long been pursued for implementation in military applications; challenges still exist, though, in integrating these systems for effective use in operational environments and to carry out common military tasks.  Such challenges with current military-focused exoskeleton designs include but are not limited to control systems, power, load capacities, fit requirements, and the need to integrate with body-borne kit.  To better understand these challenges, objective and subjective assessments of military users performing operational tasks with exoskeletons is critical. This often includes moving out of a laboratory into a field environment while maintaining high fidelity sensors and methods.  Field based protocols with outcome metrics that quantify operationally relevant performance gains (or impacts) inform both the exoskeleton developer as well as military users and leaders.  This brief will discuss military exoskeleton assessments and human-system integration considerations for exoskeletons used for military applications.


Discussion Q&A

Exhibitor/Sponsor Session

Moderator: Don Peterson, Northern Illinois University

Introduction Remarks

Don Peterson, Northern Illinois University

South Carolina Research Authority

German Bionic

HeroWear, LLC

ASTM International Exo Technology Center of Excellence (ET CoE) 

Human Solutions of North America, Inc.


Closing Remarks

Don Peterson, Northern Illinois University

Research Methods 2 - Lesson Learned from Industrial Exoskeleton Deployments

Moderator: Christopher Reid, The Boeing Company

Adoption and Implementation of Exoskeletons in the Automotive Industry

Ryan Porto, General Motors

This session will cover the implementation and management of a large-scale deployment of Exoskeletons within the automotive manufacturing environment.

Discussion will include an overview of the process and differences between implementing passive and active Exoskeletons in a variety of facilities for different tasks and conditions.

Evaluation and Implementation of Industrial Exoskeletons as an MSD Control

Seth Burt, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada

A key principle to a comprehensive MSD Prevention Program is the ability to assess hazards and issue controls. This session will cover the emerging technology that is Industrial Exoskeletons. Topics reviewed will include an applied perspective on Exoskeleton implementation and use, along with underlying research on their utility, and potential impact on MSDs. 

Deployment and Sustainment Methods of Industrial Exoskeletons in the Workplace

Kevin Hansen, The Boeing Company

Industrial exoskeletons show increased promise to reduce occupational risks, improve task acceptability and have improved over time in design and user acceptability. However, there are still many questions about how to implement and sustain exoskeleton devices from industry users. Boeing is just one of many businesses working to improve the work environment of their industrial workers with exoskeletons. There are several things that know can help. While we don’t see that exoskeletons will solve all of our occupational problems, we do see them as a means to help reduce some of the burden in producing and maintaining our products.

Discussion Q&A

Research Methods 3 - Standards to Research to Practice

Moderator: Bill Billotte, ASTM International

The Application and Precautions of Using Digital Human Modeling Technology in Exoskeleton Design and Evaluation

Bochen Jia, University of Michigan

Digital Human Modeling (DHM) as an advanced evaluation tool is widely used in the design and evaluation of exoskeleton systems. Incorporating with humans' anthropometric and biomechanical details, the DHM technologies have the capacity to provide detailed and instant understandings of human physical state during human-exoskeleton interaction. However, many factors, such as the proper parameter setting and appropriate data interpretation, could directly affect the correctness of the evaluation results. Further, Applicable scenarios for HDM, such as for return-to-work injured workers, require further clarity as well. Therefore, from basic terminology to primary modeling methods, there is a strong need to establish related standard practice that provides recommended information about the correct and reasonable application of human digital modeling in the design and evaluation of exoskeletons and exosuits. 

Ergonomics Considerations of Industrial Exoskeletons 

Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, The Boeing Company

Ergonomics is a primary factor when considering exoskeletons in industry. Many companies are interested in the possibility that exoskeletons can reduce the risk of worker injury from cumulative traumas such as back pain. However, it is important that an exoskeleton does not introduce unacceptable ergonomic risks, either from the exoskeleton itself or the way it is used. The goal of this document is to alert potential exoskeleton users to possible hazards for cumulative trauma associated with using an exoskeleton and to provide general guidelines for mitigating those hazards. 

Human Factors Practice for Developing Standard Test Methods

(All the Things About Testing People Your Professor Never Told You)

Robert (Bob) Sugarman, PhD, PE, FHFES, Stavatti Aerospace

Products that include a person as part of its system are especially complex and difficult to evaluate because people are highly variable and differ along a multitude of metrics.  This document establishes best practices for the design and execution of experiments that incorporate human behaviors and capabilities as variables and forms the basis of Standard Tests for human-in-the-loop products or systems, in particular exosystems. A standard is only as good as the validity of its assumptions. Criteria for successful compliance must be established for all boundaries of its application and must be validated with respect to the tasks in the real world for which it is a proxy. Because of the variability of humans by virtue of their individual characteristics, prior experiences, physical, physiological, and cognitive impacts of the task, any test results will be probabilistic and dependent on the requirements of the analysis to determine their reliability.

Development of Safe and Practical Exoskeleton Standards

Donald R. Peterson, Northern Illinois University

Exoskeleton technologies aim to provide opportunities to increase human safety and efficiency in industrial, emergency response, medical, military, and consumer applications.  As the exoskeleton industry continues to progress, consensus standards are essential to establish minimum performance specifications and testing procedures that ensure durability and reliability and to establish protocols that ensure functionality, compatibility, and user safety.  Understanding common specifications and protocols from latest research and practices is a critical step towards the development of safe and practical exoskeleton standards that emphasizes the interoperability of several technologies and systems, including human systems and Human Machine Interfacing (HMI).  ASTM International’s Committee F48 on Exoskeletons and Exosuits and the Exo Technology Center of Excellence has led the latest efforts to develop international standards for exoskeleton technologies that address safety, quality, performance, ergonomics, etc.

Discussion Q&A

Closing Discussion from Track Chairs & Moderators

Chris Reid, The Boeing Company; Bill Marras, Ohio State University; Bill Billotte, ASTM International; Borislav Marino, ASTM International

Moderator: Don Peterson

bottom of page