Load carriage is a key risk factor for Muscular Skeletal Disorders (MSDs). As one way to decrease such injuries, some exoskeletons have been developed for regular load carriage. We examined the ergonomic potential of an augmentation exoskeleton. Nine subjects completed eight trials of carrying tasks, using four loading levels (0, 15, 30, and 45 kg) and two carrying conditions (with and without the exoskeleton). Electromyography (EMG) and the extended NASA-TLX rating scales were investigated and analyzed by linear mixed modeling and two-way ANOVA methods. Noraxon MR3.8, SPSS19.0, and MATLAB R2014b software were adapted. The results show that most of the muscle mean activities increased significantly (p
< 0.05) with exoskeleton assistance. However, the interactive effects illustrate a decreasing trend with increase of load level. The mean discomfort rating scale values were generally higher, but subjects generally preferred using the exoskeleton in heavier loading tasks. The exoskeleton can effectively augment the performance of humans in heavy load carriage. The main reasons for higher muscle activity are from inflexible structures and inharmonious human–robot interactions. In order to decrease the MSD risks and increase comfort, optimal human–robot control strategies and adaptable kinematic design should be improved.
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