Innovation in exoskeleton robotics research – an interview from the frontlines

Researchers are on the frontiers of human discovery and innovation. But what makes them tick? We’re getting to know researchers across the world to learn what has inspired their research, what they want the world to know about their domain, and how the Web of Science Group’s workflow solutions are helping them to keep innovating every day.

In this article, we interview Jun Pan, a PhD candidate at the Zhejiang University of Technology who uses Kopernio daily to access research.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in research.

I’m currently a PhD candidate with my research direction in Upper-limb exoskeleton robotics. I was a mechanical engineer before I returned to my university for further education. I spent four years designing surveillance cameras. It was not until the day I found daily work almost always similar and tedious, that I made a decision to quit my job and returned to campus to get back to the research work that is more interesting and challenging.

What led you to the field of upper-limb exoskeleton robotics?

Sci-Fi movies like Iron Man impressed me greatly in how exoskeletons can enhance human body performance. In reality, people can do burdensome labor more easily and avoid work injuries by wearing exoskeletons; experts can disarm terrorist bombs by teleoperating robots with exoskeletons, thus ensuring personal safety; and spinal cord injury patients can carry out motor training and live independently with the help of specialized exoskeletons.

Moreover, by incorporating VR or other interaction technologies, we can foresee tremendous innovations in the entertainment industry. Exoskeleton robotics is exactly the kind of research that will benefit human well-being, help us fight hazards, inspire the industry with great imagination, and generally make our world better. These are the motivations that drive me in my current field research, and will definitely still be in the long run.

What should others know about your research domain?

Current development in Upper-limb exoskeleton robotics is still in the initial period since most research work still exists in the lab, and even those commercial products that have completed clinical trials are still functionally limited. Current exoskeletons fail to meet people’s anticipations as originated from those Sci-Fi movies.

In regard to functionality, reliability and power consumption, we may see the human body as the most sophisticated machine in the world. The man-made exoskeleton is a compromise in terms of material, kinematics, dynamics, ergonomics, sensors, computing power, reliability and power source. As a result, exoskeletons are often specially made for specific functions. It is currently not possible to design an all-in-one exoskeleton.

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Learn more about research on exoskeleton robotics, with suggestions from Jun Pan.

Researchers with years of research in upper-limb exoskeleton robotics

Jacob Rosen
Jiping He
David J. Reinkensmeyer
Marcia O’Malley
Sunil K Agrawal
Ashish Deshpande

Papers for additional information


P. Maciejasz, J. Eschweiler, K. Gerlach-Hahn, A. Jansen-Troy, and S. Leonhardt, “A survey on robotic devices for upper limb rehabilitation” Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 3, 2014.   Open Access

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A. R. C. Gopura, D. S. V. Bandara, K. Kiguchi, and G. K. I. Mann, “Developments in hardware systems of active upper-limb exoskeleton robots: A review” Robotics and Autonomous Systems, vol. 75, pp. 203–220, Jan. 2016.

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Wang, P. Markopoulos, B. Yu, W. Chen, and A. Timmermans, “Interactive wearable systems for upper body rehabilitation: a systematic review” JOURNAL OF NEUROENGINEERING AND REHABILITATION, vol. 14, Mar. 2017. Open Access

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