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Digital Human Modeling

Digital human modeling (DHM) research synthesizes and applies theory, principles, methods, and technology from a wide range of disciplines that enable computational visualization, modeling, and simulation of human-system interactions to facilitate the prediction and optimization of well-being and performance.

Representing Humans Computationally

Compared to many mechanistic computational design approaches, modeling and simulating humans, due to their inherent complexities of physiological and cognitive attributes, provides one of the most challenging undertakings.


With the rapidly expanding use of computer, sensor, and visualization technologies, digital human modeling (DHM) emerged as a computerized design support methodology that enables modeling and simulation of humans within a computer-aided design (CAD) or virtual environment (VE).

Digital human manikin musculoskeletal human model

DHM manikin represents a realistic musculoskeletal human model.

Proactive Human Factors 

DHM brings advanced visualization, simulation, analysis techniques, and technology integration via “mannequins or manikins” to enable proactive human factors by injecting human factors throughout the design process. Implementing DHM with physical or digital mockups brings the advantages of running various “what-if” design scenarios early in design, thus enhancing concept generation efforts by filtering out infeasible ideas and exploring better design alternatives. A modern product development process with DHM can also help to reduce the overall cost and time required in the long run.

Some of the common features found in DHM platforms targeted for proactive human factors design include:

  • 3D human models to represent physical attributes with varying anthropometry;

  • Vision analysis tools for identifying peripheral, coverage, and obscuration zones;

  • Predefined postures and posture prediction models to generate realistic postures;

  • Toolkits to assess comfort and risk of injury;

  • Performance measurement tools for calculating comfort, fatigue, energy expenditure, and strength; and 

  • Models to represent cognitive aspects of humans (with limitations).

Digital human modeling examples

DHM enables designers to inject human factors into early phase design and make transdiciplinary connections.  

Effective Early Phase Design
  • Designin with DHM enables designers to proactively visualize, evaluate, and optimize designs in a computer or virtual environment using DHM.

  • Injecting human factors early into the design via DHM reduces the number of design changes and corrections, thus positively impacting the overall development cost. 

Potential cost savings associated with digital human modeling

Potential cost savings associated with designing with DHM.

Making Transdiciplinary Connections
  • DHM, as a research domain, proposes a broad coverage of domain expertise and technology that allows a more systematic human-centered design. 

  • DHM “is” rooted in engineering design, systems engineering, and HFE; it also encapsulates theory, tools, principles, and best practices from non-engineering disciplines, such as industrial design, medical sciences, and management.

Digital human modeling taxonomy

DHM taxonomy based on the model development and applications. 

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