This article reviews that advances in manikin software have enabled engineers to consider a fuller spectrum of user interactions with virtual products. It has been 15 years since Sammie—a computer model of a human or manikin—emerged from the research labs of Nottingham University in the United Kingdom, promising human-factors (HF) engineers a supporting software tool to improve the study of human elements of product design. Although Sammie incorporated accurate anthropometric data and representative joint constraints, the software was very difficult to use, could not import models from a computer-aided-design (CAD) system, and was not dynamic. After phase 1 of the collaborative project, Rolls-Royce and VSEL expanded their study to evaluate the use of virtual reality for the design and layout of larger and more complex machinery spaces. This second collaborative effort had several objectives: to understand how virtual-prototyping technology could help designers better visualize complex designs, design for ease of assembly and maintenance much earlier, train maintenance engineers, and enhance communications between disparate project teams, customers, and suppliers.

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