Motion capture technology has come a long way over the years with improvements in accuracy, capture frequency, accessibility, and affordability. Accompanying these improvements has been a growth in applications, including use of motion capture as a supplement to digital human models.
Motion capture technology by definition is any device that is used to characterize human body positions and motions. It’s a term most commonly used to characterize complex instrumentation systems that collect full body 3-D position data like those used in video games and movies. A digital human model is a software-simulated human used to conduct simulated analysis of human task performance. One of the more common applications is to simulate factory line workers assembling products to analyse how the plant line should be designed to accommodate different anthropometric sizes of workers.
Intuitively it makes sense that motion capture technology would supplement digital human models. To create any digital human model, you need to have information about the position of a human performing a task. The ideal case is that you have a lot of accurate, detailed information. This is where motion capture comes in because, although at times criticised for its accuracy, it definitely delivers on the quantity of data it can provide (i.e. 3-D position, orientation, velocity, and acceleration of body segments and joints). And as time goes on, and the technology becomes even more refined, the criticisms on accuracy of motion capture systems will be reduced.
From firsthand experience, HSI® has successfully used motion capture technology to create and validate a digital human model of helicopter pilots, as well as provide input data to enhance our analysis with the model. Don’t get me wrong, the project came with its challenges. Capturing and processing motion capture data is a whole other problem on its own. But when done properly, motion capture allowed us to create and implement a successful digital human model that has proven to provide applicable analysis results for our client. If you are interested to know more, check out our 2014 HFES journal article and contractor report.