CURRENT (AND PREVIOUS) FUNCTION: Sander De Bock is a PhD student at the research group Human Physiology and Sports Physiotherapy. In 2017 he graduated as Master in Physical Education with option Sports Training and Coaching at the UGent. He gained experience in biomechanical research on distance walking and in physiological research that focused on apnoea during exercise.
RESEARCH AREA: Sander focuses on the interaction between industrial exoskeletons, and humans. Within this broad topic, Sander investigates how exoskeletons influence the physical and cognitive load during industrial work. The evaluation of exoskeletons allows us to provide targeted feedback on prototypes of future exoskeletons. A second area of research within Sander's domain is the brain-computer interface, where he investigates how brain signals can add extra value to the control centre of an exoskeleton.
CURRENT RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Sander evaluates the effectiveness of industrial exoskeletons. Here he examines how well the exoskeletons work and where any disadvantages of the exoskeleton emerge. During the evaluation of the exoskeleton, the focus is on the physiological load, the cognitive load, the peripheral fatigue and the central fatigue during the performance of work-related tasks. This information is then included in the development of new industrial exoskeletons within the Exo4Work (FWO-SBO) project. Sander then also evaluates commercially available exoskeletons within ExoOO.
The control of exoskeletons is a complex part of the development of an active exoskeleton. Delayed or incorrect support ensures that the exoskeleton is experienced as unwieldy and uncomfortable. Research into brain-computer interfaces, where the connection is made between data originating from brain activity and a computer, could enable faster and more accurate control of an exoskeleton in the future. With this in mind, a search was started for the most valuable brain signals.
PRACTICAL APPLICABILITY: Companies are showing an exponentially growing interest in industrial exoskeletons. In the future, this close cooperation between man and technology would reduce the workload of operators on the workfloor without compromising the creativity and flexibility of man. The evaluation of exoskeletons is a crucial step in the optimisation of exoskeletons under development. Brain-computer interfaces can further optimise the cooperation between the operator and the exoskeleton. With ExoOO, MFYS also supports industrial partners who are considering the implementation of exoskeletons in the future.