Message from the Director
Message from the Director
The human element is important to almost all industrial systems and products since this element is the targeted benefactor for which they are designed to serve and/or is the critical component whose function determines their performance. For example, a car is for transporting people, and is controlled, mostly, by a driver. Yet, the human element is the least understood within a system. For artificially designed and produced components, advanced mathematical and computerized models have been developed to relate their shape, composition, and functions. In contrast, models of how the highly individual and sophisticated human functions and behaves are almost nonexistent. In this sense, the human is the "weakest link" in the system.
The goal of Digital Human Research Center is to close this gap. We are developing computational models of the human element, realization of human functions within a computer, with which we can describe, analyze, simulate, and predict human functions and behaviors. Such models are useful for designing and operating systems that interact with humans, so that the systems are more individualized, easier to use, and more harmonious with humans.
The Three Modeling Axes of a Digital Human
A human exhibits many functions. We classify them into three axes. The first axis is the physio-anatomical function. As a living entity, the human body regulates and controls various parts, organs, and circulatory systems. The physio-anatomical model of human will model the shapes, material properties, physiological parameters, and their relationships to internal and external stimulations. For the Second axis, a human can be regarded as a motion-mechanical machine. A human can walk, run, move, and manipulate objects. The motion-mechanical model will include kinematic, dynamic, and behavioral analysis of human motion. Finally, for the third axis, a human feels, thinks, acts, and interacts. The psycho-cognitive modeling of a human will deal with a human's psychological and cognitive behaviors as they interact with events, other people, and environments.
Naturally, these three modeling axes are not independent. The total digital human will be integration of all of them. We are not necessarily trying to study how humans are built and function at the lowest, natural elements, such as cells, neurons, genes, and proteins. Our main emphasis is the functions themselves: what they are, when they occur, and how they interact.
Three Capabilities of a Digital Human
The computational models may describe human functions, but two additional capabilities are necessary for the study and application of the digital human. First, we need to observe humans precisely, in situ (real environments), and, preferably, in a non-intrusive manner. This includes physiological measurement, motion capture, shape measurement, facial expression analysis, and action inference. In application systems that use the digital human models, such observation technologies provide the input to drive the computational model. When a virtual human interacts with a real human, it must be able to understand the gestures and facial expressions of a real human to properly determine output. In turn, the output of the digital human model must then be presented to the real environment by means of audio, visual, haptic or physical-motion display. These "presentation technologies" range from 3D audio to 3D graphic techniques and from haptic devices to humanoid constructs. The modeling, observation, and presentation technologies are three capabilities of a digital human.
The scope of Digital Human Research Center, therefore, can be summarized in a matrix of the three axes of human functions and the three capabilities of a digital human.