Futuring Human Mobility Ottobock
Jan Groenefeld

Futuring Human Mobility

Jan Groenefeld Lead UX Designer, Solution Manager Industry

07.10.2020 • 6 minutes reading time

„This is crazy. It makes you feel like Iron Man.“ And you do kind of feel like a superhero as soon as you wear an exoskeleton.

"As the Solution Manager Industry I design human-centered interactive systems in industrial and machine-oriented environments of today and tomorrow."

Jan Groenefeld

Jan Groenefeld Lead UX Designer, Solution Manager Industry

As a designer of human-centered systems, I was allowed to try out the products from the PAEXO range myself when I visited Ottobock Experience World in Duderstadt. On my first contact with this fascinating interaction format, I was accompanied by exoskeleton expert Dr. Samuel Reimer, Business Developer & Product Manager for exoskeletons.

Exoskeleton expert Dr. Samuel Reimer and Jan Groenefeld
Exoskeleton expert Dr. Samuel Reimer and Jan Groenefeld

Find out more about a - not so distant - future from tranquil Duderstadt. To the exoskeletons!


Driven by technology, the world is turning ever faster. We’ve even come up with a term to channel this development: digitization. For people with physical disabilities, this development can only mean opportunities. The nature of our environment continues to rarely consider bodies and abilities that are outside the norm. Have you ever tried to use a touchscreen with a prosthetic hand? Inclusion and accessible concepts are taking on a new quality as technology permeates public spaces.

Slide-in: Besides our internal research we are working on several research projects together with partners from science and industry. Read more in our AVASAG article.

Ottobock has made it its mission to close this gap. Even back in 1919, the company’s innovative products and technologies were pursuing the aim of improving the lives of all users. Lost or restricted physical abilities are being restored with the aid of modern technology, using sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence. Today, this encompasses microprocessor-controlled knee joints, computer-controlled orthotics and the impressive Michelangelo prosthetic hand.

The overarching aim is constant technological development in order to improve the lives of users.

“Wearable human bionics” are expanding the product rage. These also include the PAEXO exoskeletons we have tested. Today, they are used to take the strain off humans in various areas of work and production such as the automobile industry, commissioning and manual trades. Passive extensions to the physical body prevent injuries and effectively reduce strain on the user’s joints and bones when working overhead or lifting heavy objects.

Jan Groenefeld im PAEXO Exoskelett

One thing’s for sure: humans are becoming increasingly mechanized. We wear smart watches that monitor our bodily functions and smart glasses that let us glimpse a parallel digital world. The era of the exoskeleton has only just begun. But our environment is also increasingly characterized by smart buildings and cities as well as interactive objects. Even today, there are hardly any everyday objects - from street lamps to trash cans - without sensors or some kind of tiny computer. This is laying the foundations for the connected smart city of tomorrow.
The interactive systems of the future are multifaceted and almost impossible to understand without explicit help. Interdisciplinary teams of experts from town planning, product design, IT and experience, such as our colleagues at Ergosign, are working towards humans, technology and the environment becoming one to create spaces of intuitive interaction.


The human-centered design of intuitive, self-explanatory systems is more important than ever. This ensures that technology works around humans in the future as well as today - and not the other way around. When used properly, this can be ensured with the help of human-centered design principles and methods. This applies to image-supported user interfaces as well as interaction with objects such as exoskeletons and other smart objects.

Human-centered design principles and the responsible use of technology ensure humanity’s autonomous use of technical support systems.

Here at Ergosign, we have been designing products and services that support people in their work and enrich their lives for 20 years. We make technology manageable and ensure it is used in a way that makes sense. Many technology-driven companies are yet to open up possibilities to humans. At Ottobock, this principle has been deeply anchored since its foundation. This is just one aspect of many that are making this company more valuable than ever before in a technology-focused world.


Skepticism of modern technology is completely understandable. When used responsibly, this is mostly unfounded. Modern technology such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and exoskeletons have the potential to have a positive impact on our environment. Companies such as Ottobock reinforce my position as a self-avowed technology optimist. The human-centered design of interactive systems - whether that’s on the body, on colorful displays or all around us - has the potential to make our world even more worth living in. The most important key in designing this future: Humans.

Stay tuned

In order to be able to optimally advise and support our clients, we analyze future trends extremely precisely. As part of our visit, we were also able to have an inspiring exchange of ideas with exoskeleton experts and UX designers.

Read more in our interview soon.

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