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Leia Stirling leads study on exoskeletons and decision making

Thursday, October 4, 2018

In the below story, originally published in MIT News, Professor Leia Stirling discusses her findings on the effects of protective exoskeleton technology on the cognitive ability of wearers. Watch HST MEMP PhD student Aditi Gupta demonstrate how the team conducted their research in the accompanying video.

Movement-enhancing exoskeletons may impair decision making

By Jennifer Chu

In lab experiments, soldiers wearing exoskeletons designed to improve physical performance reacted more slowly to visual cues.

As engineers make strides in the design of wearable, electronically active, and responsive leg braces, arm supports, and full-body suits, collectively known as exoskeletons, researchers at MIT are raising an important question: While these Iron Man-like appendages may amp up a person’s strength, mobility, and endurance, what effect might they have on attention and decision making?

The question is far from trivial, as exoskeletons are currently being designed and tested for use on the battlefield, where U.S. soldiers are expected to perform focused tactical maneuvers while typically carrying 60 to 100 pounds of equipment. Exoskeletons such as electronically adaptive hip, knee, and leg braces could bear a significant portion of a soldier’s load, freeing them up to move faster and with more agility.

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