Objectives: Exoskeletons are electromechanical devices that are worn by a human operator to increase their physical performance. Several exoskeletons have been developed to restore functional movements, such as walking, for those with paralysis due to neurological impairment. However, existing exoskeletons have limitations with respect to affordability, size, weight, speed, and efficiency, which may reduce their functional application. Therefore, the aim of this scoping review is to collect and narratively synthesize the perspectives of users of exoskeleton technology.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted across several healthcare related online databases.
Results: A total of 4,619 articles were identified, of which 51 were selected for full review. Only three studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria. Of these, one showed an incongruence between users’ expectations and experiences of device use; another reported perspectives on potential rather than actual device use, ranking design features in order of perceived importance; and the other reported ratings of ease of device use in training.
Conclusions: The heterogeneity of studies included within this review, leave the authors unable to suggest consensus as to user perspectives of exoskeleton technology. However, it is apparent that users are able to suggest priorities for exoskeleton design and that users’ perspectives of exoskeleton technology might change in response to experience of use. The authors, therefore, suggest that exoskeleton design should be an iterative process, whereby user perspectives are sought, incorporated and refined by tangible experience, to ensure that devices developed are acceptable to and usable by the populations they seek to re-enable.