Section: Application Domains
The design of workstations nowadays tends to include assessment steps in a Virtual Environment (VE) to evaluate ergonomic features. This approach is more cost-effective and convenient since working directly on the Digital Mock-Up (DMU) in a VE is preferable to constructing a real physical mock-up in a Real Environment (RE). This is substantiated by the fact that a Virtual Reality (VR) set-up can be easily modified, enabling quick adjustments of the workstation design. Indeed, the aim of integrating ergonomics evaluation tools in VEs is to facilitate the design process, enhance the design efficiency, and reduce the costs.
The development of such platforms asks for several improvements in the field of motion analysis and VR. First, interactions have to be as natural as possible to properly mimic the motions performed in real environments. Second, the fidelity of the simulator also needs to be correctly evaluated. Finally, motion analysis tools have to be able to provide in real-time biomechanics quantities usable by ergonomists to analyse and improve the working conditions.
In real working condition, motion analysis and musculoskeletal risks assessment raise also many scientific and technological challenges. Similarly to virtual reality, fidelity of the working process may be affected by the measurement method. Wearing sensors or skin markers, together with the need of frequently calibrating the assessment system may change the way workers perform the tasks. Whatever the measurement is, classical ergonomic assessments generally address one specific parameter, such as posture, or force, or repetitions..., which makes it difficult to design a musculoskeletal risk factor that actually represent this risk. Another key scientific challenge is then to design new indicators that better capture the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. However, this indicator has to deal with the tradeoff between accurate biomechanical assessment and the difficulty to get reliable and the required information in real working conditions.