User-centered design approaches have gained attention over the past decade, aiming to tackle the technology acceptance issues of wearable robotic devices to assist, support or augment human capabilities. While there is a consensus that usability is key to user-centered design, dedicated usability evaluation studies are scarce and clear evaluation guidelines are missing. However, the careful consideration and integration of user needs appears to be essential to successfully develop an effective, efficient, and satisfactory human-robot interaction. It is primarily the responsibility of the developer, to ensure that this users involvement takes place throughout the design process.
Through an online survey for developers of wearable robotics, we wanted to understand how the design and evaluation in actual daily practice compares to what is reported in literature. With a total of 31 questions, we analyzed the most common wearable robotic device applications and their technology maturity, and how these influence usability evaluation practices.
A total of 158 responses from a heterogeneous population were collected and analyzed. The dataset representing contexts of use for augmentation (16.5%), assistance (38.0%), therapy (39.8%), as well as few other specific applications (5.7%), allowed for an insightful analysis of the influence of technology maturity on user involvement and usability evaluation. We identified functionality, ease of use, and performance as the most evaluated usability attributes and could specify which measures are used to assess them. Also, we could underline the frequent use of qualitative measures alongside the expected high prevalence of performance-metrics. In conclusion of the analysis, we derived evaluation recommendations to foster user-centered design and usability evaluation.
This analysis might serve as state-of-the-art comparison and recommendation for usability studies in wearable robotics. We believe that by motivating for more balanced, comparable and user-oriented evaluation practices, we may support the wearable robotics field in tackling the technology acceptance limitations.