by Vincent G. Duffy

The 'Digital Human Modeling and Perception-Based Safety Design' project is intended to minimize or reduce the need for physical prototyping in design. Researchers at Purdue University from across different colleges have the opportunity to work collaboratively on projects in this area through the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering and Discovery Park. The work has origins in automotive, aerospace and military vehicle design.

A digital human model is created by inserting a digital representation of the human into a simulation or virtual environment; this is then used to explore issues of safety and/or performance. The model enables researchers to visualize situations of interest, and the virtual environment incorporates all of the necessary mathematics or science to ensure rigour. Perception-based safety design applies fundamentals of human factors and ergonomics to the optimal design of products and processes in various application domains, including manufacturing, automotive, military and healthcare.

This work began in 1996 as an extension of research in virtual environments. Later, results on digital human modeling (DHM) were presented by Purdue researchers at the IIE Applied Ergonomics Conference and the Society of Automotive Engineers Conference on Digital Human Modeling for Design in 2004 and 2005. Some early fundamental research can be found in papers presented at the international conference on Computer-Aided Ergonomics and Safety and at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society annual conference.

These recent projects on virtual interactive design, which began in 2003, give consideration to both cognitive and physical aspects of the virtual interaction. Motion capture is integrated with virtual reality as an input to some commercially available computer-aided ergonomics models. Additional research leading to new models will provide more robust predictions, including consideration of the dynamic aspects of work for improved safety and risk predictions.

Successes in DHM-related research led to funding from UGS, Nissan, General Motors and the U.S. Army. The current affiliation with the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering at Purdue University is driving a number of new research initiatives and academic endeavours, including editing the forthcoming Handbook of Digital Human Modeling and organizing the 1st International Conference on Digital Human Modeling, to be held in Beijing, China in July '07.

Opportunities for the systematic application of engineering principles to healthcare delivery include simulations and predictions of healthcare outcomes. By considering human physiological and psychological factors during virtual interactive design, we can determine the likelihood of injury or error given certain workplace conditions and task requirements. Future activities and cooperation with ERCIM will provide opportunities for larger-scale Digital Patient models. Informed by molecular and genetic data, these will provide better predictions and thus have a positive impact on the clinical outcomes of individuals.


Please contact:
Vincent G. Duffy
Purdue University, USA
Tel: +1 765 496 6658

Next issue: January 2024
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