Long imagined in science fiction, exoskeletons that can dramatically improve and extend human performance are becoming a reality for workers on manufacturing floors, warfighters and individuals with mobility impairments. NIST’s leadership, in developing standards that address the safety and performance of exoskeletons, is providing this emerging industry with the assurance it needs to innovate.
NIST was instrumental in standing up an international committee that is working to define standards for exoskeletons (as well as exosuits, another type of wearable system with similar attributes). Despite rapid progress in the marketplace, there is currently only a limited patchwork of standards that address the safety and performance of exoskeletons, and few methods for testing how well these technologies meet those standards. NIST is helping to close this standards gap, to boost growth and innovation in the sector and make exoskeletons as common in the real world as they are on the screen.
NIST brings to this effort deep experience in industrial robotics, advanced materials, electronic engineering, battery systems, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Using this expertise, NIST researchers are helping industry safely extend human performance by providing technical guidance and leadership in standards development. The next step is for NIST to develop methods for measuring performance against exoskeleton standards. For instance, NIST is developing a sensor-laden mannequin—akin to a crash test dummy—that will be used to measure the forces and stresses than an exoskeleton puts on the human body.
23 private companies,
14 universities, and
9 government agencies
represented on ASTM committee developing the first consensus standards for exoskeletons and exosuits
“Many developers and manufacturers are competing in this marketplace, and we need an unbiased institution to coordinate the development of standards that we can all have confidence in. NIST is able to play that role because it is recognized, both in the U.S. and internationally, as having the highest level of integrity and technical accomplishment.”
– Homayoon Kazerooni, Founder, SuitX