Measuring mental workload in assistive wearable devices: a review

  • Marchand Charlotte
  • de Graaf Jozina B
  • Jarrassé Nathanaël

  • Mental workload
  • Prosthesis
  • Exoskeleton


As wearable assistive devices, such as prostheses and exoskeletons, become increasingly sophisticated and effective, the mental workload associated with their use remains high and becomes a major challenge to their ecological use and long-term adoption. Numerous methods of measuring mental workload co-exist, making analysis of this research topic difficult. The aim of this review is to examine how mental workload resulting from the use of wearable assistive devices has been measured, in order to gain insight into the specific possibilities and limitations of this field. Literature searches were conducted in the main scientific databases and 60 articles measuring the mental workload induced by the use of a wearable assistive device were included in this study. Three main families of methods were identified, the most common being ’dual task’ and ’subjective assessment’ methods, followed by those based on ’physiological measures’, which included a wide variety of methods. The variability of the measurements was particularly high, making comparison difficult. There is as yet no evidence that any particular method of measuring mental workload is more appropriate to the field of wearable assistive devices. Each method has intrinsic limitations such as subjectivity, imprecision, robustness or complexity of implementation or interpretation. A promising metric seems to be the measurement of brain activity, as it is the only method that is directly related to mental workload. Finally, regardless of the measurement method chosen, special attention should be paid to the measurement of mental workload in the context of wearable assistive devices. In particular, certain practical considerations, such as ecological situations and environments or the level of expertise of the participants tested, may be essential to ensure the validity of the mental workload assessed.