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Updated: May 13, 2020

We interviewed Matthew and asked about exoskeletons what is going on in that market, where exoskeletons are being tested and used?

Read also why Matthew Marino (picture right) from Briotix Health chose to use Myontec ErgoAnalysis™ in ergonomic projects and when evaluating exoskeletons for industrial companies.

There are a lot of stories about exoskeletons at the moment. But only few companies are using them in businesses. Why is that?

This question is both very simple and very difficult to answer. The very simple answer is because exoskeletons are not well designed for every job, task and person, and they are not appropriate to use on a large scale by everyone. In addition, exoskeletons typically should not be the first solution explored for solving a problem. Engineering controls can eliminate or minimize problems as well as the need for exoskeletons. When there is a better solution, companies are often choosing that over exoskeletons for good reason. That being said, they are being used by more than just a few companies for specific applications where they are well suited, this is generating many of the stories we see and hear, and these stories generate a lot of hype. Exoskeletons designed for shoulder and back injury prevention are being adopted on larger scales by very large companies that are household names, but these devices have many limitations, and companies are learning to use them for very specific use cases that can’t be made safer for the workers via engineering controls, tools, and other ergonomic solutions. As a result, many deployments have been tactical and very small, which is appropriate for technology like exoskeletons. Despite all the attention exoskeletons are getting, there is still a lack of awareness and education about exoskeletons, there are too many options for most people to keep track of, and there is a lot of uncertainty about their potential impacts due to a lack of scientific research and concrete examples to point to where exoskeletons where highly effective. As a result, occupational exoskeleton use is rightfully being approached with caution, with many companies still testing the technology rather than moving straight to large scale deployments. A final reason why exoskeletons are getting significant attention is because whether people like it or not they are a trendy, cool, sci-fi solution to problems people can all agree are worth solving. Who doesn’t want to see exoskeletons like Marvel’s Iron Man, or Ripley’s Power Loader helping workers manage injuries, helping paralyzed patients walk, or protecting and augmenting soldiers? People can love exoskeletons for trying, or hate them for falling short of expectations, but both mindsets contribute to the hype. Hype is great, but it does not translate well into user acceptance and adoption of real exoskeletons, which don’t yet perform as well as their Hollywood inspirations.

The big players probably see a good opportunity. They see that exoskeletons are getting better, becoming more useful and accepted, and they want a seat at the table because there is a lot of money to be made if the products are adopted. They also have experience in areas that translate well into exoskeleton design. For example, Ottobock has been in the Prosthetics and Orthotics business for a long time and has created revolutionary products for patients, and companies like Samsung can design and build a wide variety of technologies. There are lots of workers who perform physically demanding work, and there are lots of exoskeletons to sell to companies who want to use them to solve problems, prevent injuries, improve productivity and help people thrive. There are needs, large markets, and money to be made.

Example picture of Ottobock exoskeleton from the company.

How do you see the trends between active and passive exoskeletons? Are there specific industries more interested