HomeResearchProjectsEXTENSOR - Technologies for intelligent exoskeletons to improve usability in working environments

EXTENSOR - Technologies for intelligent exoskeletons to improve usability in working environments


 Principal investigator:
Pura Diaz-Veiga
Miren Iturburu, Nerea Etxaniz, Lorena Grandes

The EXTENSOR project addresses a relevant problem, musculoskeletal disorders are the first cause of sick leave and represent 45.8% of the cost of occupational diseases in the Basque Country. The demographic change, with the demographic structure of the Basque population, leads us to a considerable aging of the working population in only 20 years, demanding solutions for workers, which today are beginning to be developed based on exoskeleton technologies.

This overview of the incidence of TMEs and the possible use of exoskeletons as a technical solution that has not yet been widely accepted in the industry led to the presentation and implementation during 2018 of the Elkartek EXODYN project. During EXODYN some initial tests were performed with a passive commercial exoskeleton, some use cases/movement sequences defined for both socio-health and industrial environments were characterized in laboratory, a new concept of actuation system and mechanical structure or design for a lumbar exoskeleton was proposed, and research on user intention detection was initiated.

The most immediate findings from what was done in 2018 at EXODYN indicate that while exoskeletons provide support and assistance for certain tasks/movements, it is often the case that, at the same time, they prevent or hinder other types of movements needed within the same task or in different tasks. It was also identified that the lower back of the worker is the area most exposed to MSDs in the actual cases studied.

As a step forward regarding the achievements and results obtained in EXODYN in 2018, EXTENSOR proposes the concept "Intelligent Transparency" offering an intelligent interaction with the user, mainly in the lumbar region. Research is needed on which technologies allow the exoskeleton to not only know how to adapt to the specific needs of the user and each task (in type of support applied and when it is applied), but also when it should cease its action (be transparent) when it is not needed, avoiding being a hindrance to the person's movement.

The main objective of EXTENSOR is the development of Essential Enabling Technologies (KETs) for exoskeletons for work environments in order to improve the ergonomics and safety of workers and prevent musculoskeletal ailments. The technological development is focused on the search for solutions in two work environments, the socio-health (Matia) and the industrial (Edertek).

With the aim of developing the basic technologies for transparent and intelligent interaction between the person and the exoskeleton, the goal is to deepen the detection of the user's movement by the robot. The goal is to achieve an optimal fit for the operator, in order to achieve the best functionality for each use case. This functionality is based on an adaptive, intuitive and transparent support for the user.

Basque Government, Department of Economic Development and Infrastructures, file: KK-2019/00081.


During the project, this consortium has worked on the following lines of research:

  • Analysis and evaluation in both laboratory and workplace settings of the demands placed on workers by the jobs under study in the geriatric and industrial settings; evaluation through quantitative biomechanical and physiological measurements and qualitative user evaluations. Use these measurements to evaluate a commercial exoskeleton both in the laboratory and in the workplace, with the goal of identifying ways to improve it (in conjunction with new biomechanical models of human-exoskeleton interactions).
  • Based on the data from such analysis, research and generation of musculoskeletal simulations to evaluate the movements of subjects without and with exoskeleton; applying various metrics to compare the effect of a commercial exo.
  • Development of prototypes to demonstrate new concepts of:
    • Lumbar exoskeleton structure based on a belt model.
    • SVA (Series Viscous Actuator) actuation system with force control.
    • Control algorithms for intention detection on EMG signal, using Machine Learning and Deep Learning techniques.
  • Development of a prototype of a sensorized test bench for laboratory evaluation of lumbar exos; a test bench that will allow testing both commercial exos and new developments in the field of lumbar exos.

At the end of the project, several prototypes and individual test benches are available, with promising results that will continue to evolve and improve in future projects to be applied together or separately in solutions that contribute to the improvement of the usability of commercial exoskeletons.


The EXTENSOR project consortium is a multidisciplinary and complementary consortium, covering different fields such as university (with biomedical and technical profile), socio-health, industrial, scientific and technological.

The consortium includes two multifocalized technological centers (Tecnalia, Vicomtech), a Gerontological Research Institute (Matia Institute), a UPV-EHU department in the medical field (UPV-EHU Physiology Dept.), two departments of Mondragon Unibertsitatea (Electronics and Computer Science, Design and Structural Mechanics) and a business R&D unit from the industrial sector (Edertek).

  • Tecnalia
  • Logo Vicomtech
  • Logo de Matia Instituto
    Matia Instituto
  • Logo UPV/EHU
  • Mondragon Unibertsitatea
    Mondragon Unibertsitatea
  • Edertek


2019 to 2020

Project status



Nerea Etxaniz Researcher
Miren Iturburu
Miren Iturburu Researcher
Fotografía de Pura Diaz-Veiga
Pura Diaz-Veiga Knowledge Dissemination Advisor

Line of Knowledge