Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory at ETH Zurich

The Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory (RELab) is an interdisciplinary group with competences in mechanical and electrical engineering, movement science, psychology and neuroscience. The lab was established in December 2008. We apply robotics, wearable sensor technologies and non-​invasive neuroimaging to explore, assess and restore sensorimotor function. Our goal is to promote sensorimotor recovery following neurological injury and to develop assistive technologies to compensate for remaining deficits.

Development Team

Jan Thomas Meyer

Project Lead
Project managment,
UX Design & Research

Diana Herrera

Project Collaborator
UX research,
Full-stack development

Dr. Olivier Lambercy

Scientific Advisor
Principal investigator,
RELab co-director

Prof. Dr. Roger Gassert

Scientific Advisor
Principal investigator,
RELab co-director

Alumni

Colin Pelletier

Research Assistant
Full-stack development

Natalie Tanczak

PhD researcher
UX research

Nina Scherrer

MSc thesis student
Full-stack development

User-centered Design @ RELab

We are investigating and establishing a user-centered design (UCD) framework for wearable robotic assistive technologies based on user experience research, intensified stakeholder involvement in different projects in and around the lab. UCD aims to iteratively work on a real end-user problem to find the most fitting solution. The process consists of five repeating development phases:

  • Empathizing with user needs and problems
  • Defining solution requirements
  • Ideating and conceptualizing solutions
  • Prototyping solutions to interact with
  • Evaluating the solution and interaction

Usability evaluation is an essential part of finding usability issues and creating comparable measures within iterations or other solutions. In this website, we share 15 years of experience in the design and usability evaluation of wearable robotic devices.

RELab tenoexo

The RELab tenoexo is a fully wearable robotic hand orthosis for daily assistance and therapy for people with hand impairments. The tenoexo is our main platform for the application of various usability evaluation measures and dedicated studies.

The usability of the prototypes, sub-features, interfaces, and usage processes of the tenoexo have been evaluated with various evaluation protocols from simple single-case observations and interviews to extensive, cross-sectional studies. We have tested the prototype, and its pediatric version, “PEXO” with over 50 target users of all ages: people with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, stroke survivors, and also secondary user groups such as caregivers.

VariLeg Project

The VariLeg II exoskeleton was the first robotic gait orthosis with a variable stiffness actuation designed to support the full weight of a user. It successfully participated in the Cybathlon 2016 and was used to investigate the potential benefits of variable impedance actuation in assistive devices such as exoskeletons.

For the CYBATHLON 2020, the ETH Zurich teamed up with the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences (OST) to develop the Varileg Enhanced, a specifically designed race exoskeleton with higher torque output, novel implemented functions and design features. The two pilots ranked 6th and 7th place at the Cybathlon 2020 Global Edition. For the third CYBATHLON edition in 2024, the development team continues to optimize the powered exoskeleton, following a dedicated user-centered design approach with multile pilots as contributing actively and regularly.

ETH Spinoff Auxivo AG

After many years of exoskeleton research, Auxivo AG was founded in 2019 as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. The company develops wearable exoskeletons that support workers executing physically demanding tasks. The products reduce workload, exhaustion and fatigue to ensure the workers' long-term wellbeing.

All prototypes and products are extensively tested with end-users out in the field or inside the controlled testing facilities. The RELab supports the endeavors with shared student projects and the exchange of knowledge in wearable robotics development and evaluation.