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Inauguration AugmentX

Posted on Professor Tom Verstraten

Date: 11/01/2024

Location: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

The inauguration of the Flanders Make AugmentX lab at VUB marked a pivotal moment not only in collaborative research but also in the unveiling of advancements in exoskeleton analysis. Held at the VUB campus, the event featured a compelling presentation that showcased the assessment of passive back and shoulder exoskeletons, demonstrating the groundbreaking capabilities of AugmentX in the assessment of human augmentation technologies.
The success of the event was evident in the vibrant atmosphere created by the diverse group of guests, including researchers, industry professionals, and journalists. The engaging presentations, interactive sessions and discussions exemplified the shared enthusiasm for the advancements showcased by AugmentX.

Live Demo

The ceremony commenced with some speeches by the Vice Rector of VUB, Mr. Hugo Thienpont. Mr. Thienpont highlighted the potential impact of the AugmentX lab in advancing our understanding of human-machine interfaces and its applications in various industries. Following the Vice Rector's address, the CEO of "FlandersMake" took the stage to share his insights into the collaborative nature of the AugmentX project. The CEO emphasized the importance of such collaborations in driving technological advancements and promoting economic growth. Finally the the audience was then treated to a thought-provoking speech by Professor Tom Verstraten, an esteemed robotics expert.

Exoskeleton use case

After the speeches, Tom Turcksin, the manager of AugmentX, gave a short demonstration of what  measurement session looks like. He then followed it up with a presentation of the human centric challenges that cause fall-out and early retirement. He pointed out the challenges that ergonomists face (in particular when forces are applied) and the need for a more holistic approach to ergonomic analysis.  In addition he highlighted the need of unbiased knowledge around augmentation devices and the need for compagnies to get a taste of these solutions, without having to take too much risks to potentially solve an issue. He presented the services that AugmentX offers, and how they address the presented problems.
The next part of the presentation showcased the detailed analysis of a use case at Bewel. For this use this case, a cobot was used as third hand setup making the work of the workers much more ergonomic.  Detailed ergonomic assessment took place to identify dangerous situations and the setup was optimised in a recurrent way eliminating  more dangerous situations.

The next use case demonstrated the use of exoskeletons. The ground reaction forces are measured with force plates or with insoles. A combined approach of measurements and simulation is used to identify forces acting on the hands or on the body. This integration of real-world measurements with simulated data enhances the lab's ability to provide nuanced insights into the impact of exoskeletons on specific body regions. It also ensures a comprehensive understanding of the forces involved. The analysis allowed to compare work with and without exoskeleton.
Traditionally this type of comparisons is performed with surface electro myography. However the advantages of measuring force and displacement offers numerous advantages. Repeatability and accuracy of the force times displacement method is hugely apparent. Therefore, the need for having a large number of experiments (required to prove a hypothesis through statistical relevance) completely disappeared. On the downside, static flexing of muscles cannot be detected because the displacement is zero. The force times displacement method is only focussing on provided work. This requires a dynamic component. For the first time, everything can be quantified in SI units (N, m, J, W …). Basically AugmentX can tell you how many “standard slices of bread” a particular job requires. AugmentX can also tell you which compressive force and which shear force takes place at different location throughout the spine. To gain insight in the provided effort however, fusion of force displacement and physiological signals are necessary. So in the end both techniques have their advantages and disadvantages. Luckily AugmentX offers both and will continue to strive towards the sensor fusion goal.

Try out exoskeletons


A second revelation was the superiority of our in-lab measurement system in terms of accuracy when compared to the mobile measurement system. The in-lab measurement system stands out for its heightened accuracy, providing researchers with unparalleled insights into the intricate details of human movement and interaction with exoskeleton technology. This precision is crucial for advancing our understanding of the biomechanical implications. In addition the  in-lab measurement system allows AugmentX researchers to verify the accuracy of the mobile assessment system and even expand the capabilities of the mobile assessment system.

After the presentation, it was time for some movement. The event's interactive component allowed guests to try out some of the showcased exoskeletons, providing a firsthand experience of the technologies under analysis. In addition to the exoskeleton trials, guests were invited to explore the AI Experience Centre, where technology demonstrators developed by the "Brubotics" researchers were on display. This exhibit provided a broader perspective on the innovative research and applications emerging from the collaborative efforts between VUB researchers Flanders Make and industry partners.
The success of the event was evident in the vibrant atmosphere created by the diverse group of guests, including researchers, industry professionals, and journalists. The engaging presentations, interactive sessions and discussions exemplified the shared enthusiasm for the advancements showcased by AugmentX.

In conclusion, the inauguration of the AugmentX lab at VUB not only celebrated collaborative achievements but also revealed the future of exoskeleton analysis. AugmentX's commitment to accuracy, coupled with its innovative approach to combining measurements and simulations, positions it at the forefront of human augmentation research. As the lab continues to pioneer advancements in exoskeleton technology, it is poised to reshape the landscape of human-machine interaction and contribute significantly to the evolution of the interface between human and robots. AugmentX is clearly a desirable partner for ergonomists, prevention advisors, medical doctors, movement scientists and other research institutes active in this field.

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