Human-Machine-Centered Design Methods

Human-machine-centered design methods are crucial to create human-oriented technologies and systems that synergetically cooperate with their users. Previous research indicates that both human factors and technical aspects need to be considered equally to achieve a technically efficient design that is accepted by users.

Thus, development methodologies based on a consideration of both represent a promising approach. While technical aspects might be obvious, the identification and understanding of human factors is a challenging task that can be tackled by means of user and expert surveys for instance. Another issue to be analyzed based on this, is how resulting insights can be used with engineering design techniques to create human-machine-centered development frameworks.

Our research concerns the identification and modeling of human factors as well as design method development currently focusing on lower limb prosthetics. The necessary user and expert studies are performed and evaluated with experts from psychology and biomechanics. Our aim is to holistically understand and methodically consider the human factors in lower limb prosthetic design. Generally, we investigate the integration of technical systems within their users’ body schemata and the impact of human factors on engineering decisions.

We kindly ask for participation in our Survey of the potential to technically improve lower limb protheses. For our questionnaire survey we use the software G3plus (Rogator AG).

Current Projects Related to this Key Topic:

Sponsored by “Athene Young Investigator” – Program of TU Darmstadt

This project combines methods from engineering and human sciences to tackle the multidisciplinary field of wearable robotic devices for motion support and augmentation.

Through considering human factors in control design, algorithms are envisioned to provide efficient and natural assistance and prevent users‘ from feeling to be “controlled by the device”. Psychophysical exploration of how humans experience the stiffness of wearable robots guides impedance control design. With appropriate adaptation, those algorithms facilitate versatile locomotion types and become fault-tolerant. Additionally, psychometric and human-in-the-loop studies examine the impact of the algorithms on the embodiment of the devices by their users. For practical validation, an adaptive shank prosthesis and a powered knee orthosis are used as wearable robotic demonstrators. Finally, all results inform the specification of a human-oriented control design method to improve user acceptance and satisfaction.

Contact: Philipp Beckerle,

Funded by DFG: BE 5729/3&11

The scientific network deals with the body experience of subjects using assistive robots or other body-/user-proximal robotic devices. The objectives are to explore the technical potential of improving experience by appropriate human-robot interfaces and robot designs. Therefore, the participating researchers jointly analyze and discuss measures to assess experience (body image and body schema) and consider it in novel design methods. This includes the identification of promising perceptual channels as well as the preparation of foot- and hand-robots for the experimental investigation of rubber limb illusions and interface designs.

Further information about the network activities can be found here.

Contact: Philipp Beckerle,

Picture: IMS

Funded by AiF/IGF: 18873 N/2

In an interdisciplinary project funded by AiF in cooperation with two institutes of the TU Darmstadt (Psychology and Sport Science) and the Biomechatronics Group of the Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart, we are working on the idea of elaborating the way in which prosthetic sockets are fitted: evolving from handcraft to a semi-automatic development method. Using experimental trials, modeling approaches, the expertise of outstanding orthopedic technicians and the subjective feedback given by amputees, we want to objectify the fitting process and develop a method which decreases fitting time and iterations while reducing the dependence on the technician’s expertise.

Contact: Veronika Noll,

Picture: IMS

Completed Projects Related to this Key Topic:

Funded by DFG: RI 2086/7

This DFG-funded research project aims at the development of concepts and components for adequate user support and provision of feeling of security in dynamic gait situations. A cooperation with the prosthesis manufacturer Blatchford Product Limited, UK, combines expertise of extensive experience in prosthetic development and holistic system architecture mechatronic systems to generate innovative concepts. After performing and analyzing clinical studies with an in-house developed sensor system, concepts for prosthetic components are developed. A holistic mechatronic design methodology integrates gait detection algorithms, control concepts as well as mechanical design and evaluation. After realization of prototypes a validation by test-bench and experimental studies will be done.

Contact: Jochen Schuy,

Picture: IMS

Funded by the TU Darmstadt, this project aimed at active lower limb prostheses which are user-friendly and energy efficient. Human Factors have been analyzed psychologically and integrated into engineering methods to develop user-oriented technologies. To increase energy efficiency, elastic actuation systems and appropriate control algorithms were designed based on simulations of human gait with and without prosthesis.

Contact: Philipp Beckerle,