Have you ever owned a car with a drivers seat you could never adjust to feel quite right? How about that dress that looked divine on the rackand claimed to be your sizebut looked like a flour sack when you tried it on? Or perhaps youre one of the 20-25 percent of airline passengers who experience discomfort on that long flight in a packed jet?
Relief may be winging its way to you, courtesy of the United States Air Force, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), some innovative computer imaging systems, and a project named for a Roman emperor.
Whither The So-Called Average Size?
|Our intrepid reporter gets covered with dots and enters the Whole Body Scanner. The computer creates a 3-D image of him.|
Kathleen Robinette, project leader for the Civilian American European Surface Anthropometry Resource, or CAESAR, weighs in on the myth of the average size: "There is no average person; it doesnt exist. . . . Everybody is a combination of different body parts, even twins."
Because a true average doesnt exist, millions of dollars are wasted in the attempt to fit our unique bodies into a few standard sizes of car seats, clothing and computers stationsor in the case of fighter pilots, G-suits, helmets and glovessays Robinette. The CAESAR project aims to recreate standards that are a bit more true to form.
Along with conventional measurement technologies, the project uses three-dimensional (3-D) surface anthropometry (the detailed measurement of the outer surface of human bodies). The Air Forces computer-controlled 3-D scanner notes and stores hundreds of thousands of data points on the surface of the body. These data points are then used to create a three-dimensional picture of the subjects form.
Whom Are The Measurements Based On? The CAESAR project depends on some 9,000 volunteers who spend up to an hour being measured with tape measures, calipers and the Whole Body Scanner. The volunteers assume three positions during their visitstanding, sitting with forearms up, and sitting with forearms downto provide a variety of measurement data.
The volunteers come from both genders, three age groups and three ethnic groups. This gives the researchers 18 categories of body sizes, which should result in a more accurate assessment of sizes and shapes.
Robinettes team of researchers believes that their work in the United States, the Netherlands and Italy will "result in safer equipment which performs better," and which saves money. "We wont waste material on sizes and shapes that dont exist out there," she says. The stored data will be used to redesign everything from jeans and automobile seats to flight suits and computer workstations, and will be available for a fee to those who need to know what sizes to use to make their products fit our bodies.
A consortium of military and civilian agencies are working on the CAESAR project, based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. A partial list of the civilian partners includes the SAE (a consortium of industry partners representing 30 of the nations top automotive and aeroapsace firms), the Boeing Company, and Levi Strauss & Co.
|Methods from the past were also used.|
"We began planning with a NATO working group which began in 1993," explains Robinette. "Data collection was [started] April 1998 in Los Angeles; the entire project should be completed by 2002."
What Is Anthropometry?
Anthropometry is the science of human body measurement. Before computerized scanning came into use, scientists used manual instruments to measure body size.
Because of the time-consuming methods used in the past, anthropometric surveys were few and far between. The womens apparel industry conducted a survey in 1949, and a nutritional survey is performed every 10 years, according to Robinette.
| CAESAR Partners: |
Dayton Hudson Corp.
Deere & Co.
Ford Motor Co.
Georgia Inst. of Technology
Johnson Controls, Inc.
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautical
Magna Interior Systems Engineering
Mitsubishi Motors Co.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
Public Technologies Multimedia, Inc.
Sara Lee Knit Products
Sears Manufacturing Co.
Vanity Fair, Inc.
Anthropometric measurements determine:
- clothing sizes
- normal growth rates for children
- car and airplane seat dimensions
- a host of other sizes of everyday items, like eating utensils
The CAESAR anthropometric project could someday result in clothes that really fit, workstations that avoid repetitive motion injury, and car seats that you can actually adjust to your comfort. Perhaps the data will also lead to airline seating that doesnt make us feel like sardines packed in a can.
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