I work with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) in the United States and am interested in determining the
"state-of-the-art" in the area of 3D movement and motion monitoring. I wish
to locate and communicate with researchers who are working in this area for
two reasons:
1. I am seeking those who might have an interest in presenting a paper at a
jointly sponsored NASA/NIOSH conference in June of 2001 to describe their
work in this area.
2. I am seeking a better way to monitor and evaluate human work activity;
i.e., a better way to assess the biomechanical demands that occur when
humans perform physical work (for example, lifting and carrying boxes).
Accordingly, I am searching for human motion measurement technologies that
can monitor and record the movements of the major joints of the human body
while MINIMIZING the spatial constraints and physical limitations that must
be placed upon the wearer. (Something that would be usable in an actual work
For our research, we need to be able to monitor and record the positions of
the joints of the human body (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and
wrists) in 3 dimensions, and then be able to calculate the directions and
velocities of the movements of these joints, and finally, derive estimates
of the forces involved and the work done by the worker. Ideally, we would
like to learn of a system that could be integrated into, embedded in, or
easily placed upon clothing that could be worn by workers as they perform
their tasks (for example, a "spandex"-type suit or other close-fitting
I thoroughly appreciate that this is not a new concept; however, with the
advances of the past decade in terms of miniaturization, enhanced computing
power, and advanced sensors and measurement capabilities, etc., I am hoping
to find researchers with biomechanical backgrounds who are collaborating
with researchers who are expert in the use of fiber optics, gyroscopes
(and/or other technologies with position sensing capabilities) that are
working towards--or have already developed--such a system.
The initial integrated technology need would appear to be for a the motion
monitoring/recording system that imposes minimal physical and spatial
constraints. From my limited appreciation of what is going on, it may be
that the hoped-for system will reflect some collaboration between those
associated with the Virtual Reality technologies, Graphic Arts, or TV/film
industry (reflecting their efforts to more rapidly produce animation video)
and those working in the area of physical rehabilitation (concerned with the
assessment and evaluation of physical movement and physiological costs).
I am familiar with the video-camera-based technologies that require the use
of reflective balls attached to the person, and I've read about the
technology that uses an "exoskeleton" is coupled with sensors at the joints
and with a gyroscope (Gypsy's approach to the collection of data for film
animation-development [see their web site: http://www.analogus.com/]), but
the former is significantly limited by "line-of-sight" considerations (and
requires a lot of post-processing time to obtain usable data), and the
latter is too awkward and is not very compatible with use in actual work
sites (for example warehouses) where it can too easily be bumped or "catch
on to" objects in the work environment. I've been told (Measurand, in
Canada: http://www.measurand.com/) that the use of fiber optics to evaluate
light transmission times is apt to be the technology that would be most
likely to meet our needs (it is now being used to measure individual joint
angles, but I am told that it is also likely that by incorporating
pre-formed bends in the strands, and using multiple strands, this approach
will also be able to measure distances). If true, then it appears that one
could embed lengths of fiber optic wires into something like a "spandex
suit" and then couple that with a gyroscope and/or some other means of
monitoring location and orientation and achieve something like the
instrumentation suite I need. (Monitoring translation would remain a
concern, however.)
I have also read of a Russian-developed "virtual suit"
(http://www.virtusphere.com/virtusuit_all.shtml) with considerable interest.
(It appears to be somewhat similar to the technology being used by
"Intersense" [see their web site: www.isense.com].) However, I have been
unable to obtain any more information regarding the "virtual suit" beyond
that which appeared on the web site.
Textile researchers at Georgia Tech in the US are also developing a "smart
shirt" (a computer to be worn like a shirt:
http://vishwa.tfe.gatech.edu/gtwm/gtwm.html) that incorporates fiber-optic
threads and is capable of supporting a variety of sensors.
As inferred earlier, it is apt to be a team of researchers using ideas from
several technical areas that will likely produce the system with the
capability that seems needed. I can imagine from a technology transfer
perspective, that a "product line" would evolve that would span a range of
* Research Lab Tool. At the high end would be an integrated
university/laboratory research system that was capable of relatively high
resolution and accuracy that monitored all of the major joints of the major
limbs of the body. (Ideally, one that was also compatible with the
capability to monitor the principal 'physiological cost' parameters--or
better yet, integrated that capability into the system.)
* Industrial Job Assessments; Home Physical Rehab Units. At the
next level would be a reduced system that monitored only a subset of these
joints--those that proved most effective in predicting muscle loading or
physiological costs--that would be much less costly and be used by industry
to monitor their workers to determine whether the requirements of a
workstation or job posed a risk or exceeded standards--or lesser systems
developed for particular, home-based physical therapy applications.
* Video Game Interface; Grammar School Teaching Aid. And at the
lowest, least inexpensive level would be one that was compatible with use by
children (adults, too) and served as the interface for real-time interaction
with video games (like those from Nintendo, Sony, etc.), or those developed
for interactive teaching modules in grammar schools. (I hear that at
SIGRAPH this year, one of the major video game manufacturers was going to
produce an interactive 'kick-boxing' system that would be sold at a price
that was comparable with other game interface products--so the development
in this area seems feasible and has already begun.)
If any of you are working in this area, or if you know of someone who is, I
would very much appreciate the opportunity to communicate with you (or them)
regarding your (or their) work and/or interest in making a presentation at
the joint NASA/NIOSH conference.
Thank you for your time!

Aaron W. "Ron" Schopper, Ph.D.
Chief, Engineering & Control Technology Branch
Health Effects Laboratory Division, NIOSH
M/S: PO4/2027, Rm. L-2203
1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505
Phone: 304-285-6171/6073 Fax: 304-285-6265
e-mail: aws0@cdc.gov

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