Fascinating article, Beth. I wonder if Jack might be able to avoid some of the ridiculous design problems that come up in the Made by Monkeys blog. Often we see problems that arise because people just didn't think things through. Perhaps Jack can avoid some of those problems.
Jack might be able to help companies avoid some of the design miscues that are centered more around ergonomics and how products come together. The simulation tool is really aimed at laying out an efficient and optimal factory floor, making it safer and more expedient for workers to assemble product and perform other tasks on the production line.
In my experience, human factors has always been relegated to a tangential role (indeed, it's often an afterthought) in the design process. It does get significant lip service, but unless you're talking about a software UI, generally usage scenarios are not considered seriously enough. Maybe for washing machines (consumer appliances), although judging by our Made By Monkeys sagas, there've been more than a few problems there. But certainly not in most other (and particularly non-consumer, such as factory) scenarios, so this is a good think, adding it front and center into the simulation tool.
Alex, my experiences have been similar to yours in that human factor and ergonomic considerations are often claimed to have been well thought out by product management; but in reality are truly an afterthought. Its only after generations of (questionable) product releases show negative repercussions in the market that companies truly pay attention to real HF & ergonomic "needs".
In consumer products, a stodgy corporate attitude ("...we've always done it that way") can often be painfully reversed by a leaner, smaller competitor suddenly coming in and taking their market share.
In lesser driven markets like the military,end-users don't get much say in tools and equipment issued to them, and feedback to product designers is even more constrained - (recall the recent post in Design News discussing the pedometer/battery charger strapped to the Infantryman's boot heels).
In either scenario, HF & ergo can certainly stand to be further studied before launching the final versions of most products and equipment.These Avatars for the Factory Floor should prove positive worth, providing their use & application for design intent isn't too difficult to manage by the design engineers.
Beth: Are Jack and Jill (or something similar) used by the auto industry, especially for seat and dashboard design? Imagine all the different size of people who have to be accommodated by one automotive seat. Seems like automotive would be the perfect application for this.
Chuck and Ann, you definitely hit on an issue in terms of digital avatars accommodating the various sizes of people based on a variety of human factors, including age, sex, and nationality. Jack and Jill and other human simulation applications definitely take these differences into account via the use of anthropemetric databases. In fact, one of the primary enhancements in this release was accommodation for the Japanese and Korean markets with new anthropometric databases that best represent the size and stature of those populations.
Good point, Chuck. During times I've rented cars frequently, I've noticed that American sedans seemd to have everything in the wrong place in the driver's seat. I would keep bumping my elbows and knees. With Japanese cars I never ran into these problems. I've often suspected Japanese engineers paid more attention to whether you bump you elbow on the arm rest when you reach for something on the dash.
Interesting, as a tall person, I remember the very first Japanese cars sold in the US in the 1970s as being quite uncomfortable. And for my (then) husband, who was 6'7", they were unusable.To Rob's point, I wonder if that gave the Japanese a head start on designing for different populations? I've continued to buy Japanese cars all this time because they're just better, and partly, I guess, because they did adapt to market feedback on so many features.
For the past 15 years or so, Buick has been putting a lot of effort into ergonomics and seat design with special attention being given to those who are several standard deviations from the norm. I believe they were making special efforts to remove the "hot spots" in seats for drivers as tall as 6'-7". See link below.
Thanks for the link. Good to know they are being responsive.
My husband's problem wasn't hot spots: it was the fact that he could not sit in the seat without bending his neck! The seat was simply too high, even at the lowest adjustment, and the cabin too small overall. He was more than 12 inches taller than the average Japanese person of that time, and Toyota and others had not yet adjusted to building cars for sale in the US that were designed for taller Americans.
Two of my sons are rather tall -- one is 6'-6" and the other is 6'-7". The taller one has trouble in a Honda Odyssey minivan, but is comfortable in a little Saturn Ion. Go figure. The taller one also had trouble with the Toyota Prius PHV. My impression is that these problems can be circumvented if the manufacturer is willing to let the driver's seat slide back into the rear seat area. That virtually eliminates the possibility of a passenger sitting in the rear seat, but at least it allows the driver to drive.
Simulation can be a very powerful tool. Working at a simulation company many years ago, we started an effort to include the field engineers in the design phase. This helped to ensure that they knew the products when they went out the door. It also helped to identify maintenance problems early in the design phase.
This is a step further in that type of effort. Get "human" feedback in the simulation phase.
This looks like a cool app, Beth. I wasn't aware of human simulation software efforts, and it sure makes a lot of sense. My question is, considering how radically different the sizes and shapes of people can be, does this software allow tweaking of dimensions? Is it based on certain fixed "average" dimensions, or does it vary around the world, as average size varies within different populations?
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