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By Alison Donnellan 3 August 2021 3 min read

Digital human technology using marker-less motion capture to analyse the posture of someone picking up an object.

Sometimes, to solve a problem or improve performance, we need to see the body in motion or performing an action. But doing this can be time-consuming, expensive, invasive, and sometimes even dangerous.

But with a Digital Human, we can evaluate the functions, movement and health of a person without putting them through invasive tests.

What is a Digital Human?

Harnessing the power of high-performance computing, a Digital Human is a detailed replica of a person (or part of a person) and their environment.

It digitally duplicates someone’s anatomy by using data from body scans and medical imaging. This enables the Digital Human to accurately recreate the mechanical and chemical behaviour of the body.

It can create such detailed results that we’re able to measure the flavour release of certain foods, analyse water absorption in the intestine, and the see the body’s muscular reaction to the hardness of a surface when walking or running.

What can a Digital Human do?

A Digital Human allows us to:

  • Calculate internal bodily forces to better understand injury risk or strength requirements for movement, without the need for humans to undertake potentially risky actions.
  • Measure the transport of chemicals, such as flavour compounds in the mouth, in 4D, in much greater detail than we could gather using live subjects.

Digital Human technology is already widely used in areas such as high-performance sport, with the coaches of the Australian Olympic diving squad using our Digital Human technology to prepare the team for the Rio 2016 Olympics. However, the possibilities are not just limited to shaving milliseconds off lap times.

How we’re using Digital Humans

Our researchers are using a technique called marker-less motion capture to make the creation of a Digital Human even easier.

Unlike the motion capture rigs seen in making-of docos about blockbuster movies, marker-less motion capture needs no electrodes, wires or special suits.

Instead, this method uses machine learning techniques that enable software to combine the moving images captured by multiple cameras, and precisely analyse each motion, without the need for any physical contact with the subject.

This highly scalable approach can be used where marker systems are impractical, like during sporting competitions, in aquatic environments (swimming and diving), and for rehabilitation in the home.

Our Mixed Reality Lab is playing a crucial role in creation of these marker-less Digital Humans. Equipped with state-of-the-art cameras, sensors and video recording outfitted with smart vision and motion capture technology, the lab enables the creation of computer-generated copies of real-world objects.

Digital Humans for everyday problems

Using the example of workplace health and safety, a Digital Human can mitigate injuries in real time by analysing employees’ movements when they perform an action, like lifting a heavy item.

By combining computer vision with biomechanical modelling, it’s possible to see the pressure exerted on different parts of the body in both good lifts and bad ones. Workplace practices can then be altered to lessen the risk of injury.

Digital Humans can also be used as part of in-home rehabilitation, and as a tool to assist with older Australians living independently at home for longer.  

“The potential benefits for the community from this technology and research could be significant,” explains Lead Senior Research Scientist Dr Simon Harrison.

“Whether it’s someone performing repetitive work who wants to avoid ab injury, an elderly or disabled person wanting to increase their safety while living independently at home, or someone looking to improve their sports performance, by using Digital Human technology to measure their movements without any requirement to put devices on, we will learn so much about how the body works, ages, and gets injured.”

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