In the build and design world, ergonomics refers to adapting the work environment itself in the name of safety and productivity. Although OSHA doesn’t have an ergonomics standard, the construction world has long focused on the principles of ergonomics for safety and worker comfort in the form of tool design, braces, harnesses and lifting processes. Recently, the industry is seeing technology take the initiative to become more ergonomically focused in terms of how things are seen and visualized. Visual ergonomics is not new—but now the question is, just how far will it go within construction technology? If recent trends continue, successful project delivery may actually hinge on visual ergonomics.
Of course, actual hinges can help, too. Enter tech giant Microsoft, as the company has most recently taken visual ergonomics theory into the digital consumer space via the introduction of its Studio Surface, an all-in-one desktop with a large, hinged articulating screen which folds down like a drawing pad. Architects and digital artists are singing early praises with the shared sentiment that having a stylus and the Surface Dial, and enhancing the overall workspace, brings about improved work quality and collaboration. Being able to fold down the screen makes it easy for a group of people to interact with the work itself, encouraging faster project approvals within smaller group settings.
How clients and owners visualize project design and completion is certainly key to winning bids, which is why many design firms have turned to 3D PDFs to relay model information outside of expensive BIM programs—even in areas where BIM is a requirement. A prominent engineering consultancy firm in the UK, Hilson Moran, recently discovered that project visualization increases their chances of winning the job, and they only need a program like Bluebeam Revu to put it together. “We found that it was much easier to navigate around a presentation,” says Hilson Moran Director Vince Ugarow. “The client was quite impressed with it—particularly the use of the 3D PDFs, which was a great tool to use.”
Thinking Outside the Box
One company is going a step further, changing the workspace and adopting technology to take visual ergonomics to the next level. That company is Wavetrain Cinemas, an Australian firm specializing in high-end custom theater design, consultation and product distribution. Their idea was to offer an interactive experience that could allow the client to participate in digital workflow sessions with the ergonomic comfort of a large touchscreen.
Wavetrain’s Paul McLean began using Revu for lighting and air conditioning design, audio/visual (AV) equipment specification, detailed layouts of furniture, screens and AV equipment and advanced sound isolation solutions, as well as the calibration of completed rooms. “I say all the time that Revu can be learned essentially in two hours. It captures a prospective user’s attention instantly,” says McLean, who is the B4B Partner Manager for Wavetrain.
While Revu simplified mapping out the visual aspects of the workflows, creating the interactive workspace became the real challenge.
Building Outside The Box
McLean sought to create an interactive workspace so that clients, other firms and trade show attendees could not only envision the projects better, but they could actually interact with them in a way that would maximize visual ergonomics. “With the rise of smartphones and tablets, we all know what to expect from a digital touchscreen surface interaction,” he says. “I tested a few different screens on the market, as some of the screens use differing types of touch acceptance.”
The major touchscreens on the market include infrared or capacitive sensors. “Capacitive touch seems to be the best of all of these technologies. It’s responsive and behaves in a manner that you expect, which I feel is important,” explains McLean of the device design process. After some scouting, McLean chose 3M’s 4K 55” multi-touch display screens as the visual hub of this new workspace.
In order for the workspace to be more ergonomically sound, the screens needed to lie flat for use. Wavetrain took advantage of palm rejection technology, which prevents the software from moving in the event someone leans on the screen. Instead, identifying a real touch is required for the software to be activated.
The 3M technology also boasts active thermal management, which keeps the screen much cooler than a traditional screen so it doesn’t heat up too much during prolonged use. “Keeping the device cool is great because, in my experience in the AV automation space,” adds McLean, “knowing the electronics are cool provides me peace of mind that the device will last, so you know it’s a solid investment in quality electronics.”
The massive 55” screens needed to be accessible by Wavetrain’s customers, so the team came up with their own custom solution. “These huge pieces of screen often don’t like gravity, nor something pushing on it more. We needed to find a properly engineered device that could be warranted to lay flat,” he explains. The Wavetrain team added Linak lifters to sturdy metal frames, enabling the whole table to be raised and lowered as needed, which doubles as a wellness solution for people who need to move around more while working. Wavetrain also uses a capacitive touchscreen on the overhead monitor, which is an Acer high resolution monitor on a CBS flo-monitor arm. This additional screen extends the capability of Revu by placing mark-up tool sets and page Thumbnails on this screen. The interface interaction is enhanced, as a tool set can be touched on one slate of glass, then placed on the main high- resolution, large-format screen.
The Result and the Future
Creating an entirely different workplace based on visual ergonomics has suited Wavetrain well, as clients, customers and employees alike have embraced the company’s technological innovation. “It’s just so user-friendly; it has already proved useful on a number of projects,” summarizes McLean. As an industry leader in the high-end home theatre realm, he insists that Wavetrain isn’t finished, as the 65” 4K 3M screens are just now shipping to Australia. However, he is pleased with what they have accomplished in this unique innovation. “Two words wrap up what makes this successful: it’s engaging and interactive. If you have these two elements nailed well, it’s going to work.”