Studying the Effects of Back-Support Exoskeletons on Workers' Cognitive Load during Material Handling Tasks

Yizhi Liu, Yogesh Gautam, Amit Ojha, Shayan Shayesteh, Houtan Jebelli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Exoskeletons, also known as wearable robots, are being studied as a potential solution to reduce the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in construction. The exoskeletons can help enhance workers' postures and provide lift support, reducing the muscular demands on workers while executing construction tasks. Despite the potential of exoskeletons in reducing the risk of WMSDs, there is a lack of understanding about the potential effects of exoskeletons on workers' psychological states. This lack of knowledge raises concerns that exoskeletons may lead to psychological risks, such as cognitive overload, among workers. To bridge this gap, this study aims to assess the impact of back-support exoskeletons (BSE) on workers' cognitive load during material lifting tasks. To accomplish this, a physiologically based cognitive load assessment framework was developed. This framework used wearable biosensors to capture the physiological signals of workers and applied Autoencoder and Ensemble Learning techniques to train a machine learning classifier based on the signals to estimate cognitive load levels of workers while wearing the exoskeleton. Results showed that using BSE increased workers' cognitive load by 33% compared to not using it during material handling tasks. The findings can aid in the design and implementation of exoskeletons in the construction industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvanced Technologies, Automation, and Computer Applications in Construction
EditorsJennifer S. Shane, Katherine M. Madson, Yunjeong Mo, Cristina Poleacovschi, Roy E. Sturgill
PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780784485262
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes
EventConstruction Research Congress 2024, CRC 2024 - Des Moines, United States
Duration: Mar 20 2024Mar 23 2024

Publication series

NameConstruction Research Congress 2024, CRC 2024


ConferenceConstruction Research Congress 2024, CRC 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityDes Moines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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