Masters Thesis: Universal Design Manikin

July 31, 2012
by admin

    After a year and a half I have finished my Masters of Science in Architecture with a concentration in Digital Technology at the University of Michigan.  My research was based on simulating and visualizing the human body within architectural space.  The overall subject of my research was in the need to have these performative ratings of space in order for Universal Design to thrive.  Many of the human scale factors do not translate well into all architectural aspects.  However, in the case of a person in a wheelchair, almost all human scale factors are very important to know.  The research is a combination of visualization techniques, simulation algorithms, and understandings of human factors, all within a designers workflow.

    For this research I used Autodesk maya and python.  In Maya 2012, the version I was using at the time, the internal python interpreter was standard.  As such, I was able to use any library I wanted, including numpy and matplotlib.  I took advantage of this as it created for a powerful integration tool that could combine the visualization methods of matlab and biomechanics as well as the graphics and functionality of a 3d modeling tool.  Unfortunately, Autodesk changed python in later versions, and some of the functionality of my work is not possible.  However, this was just one method I had used in 2012 to prove my hypothesis and show the capability of programming appropriate plugins inside of design tools.  There is certainly a different way to approach it now.

    Below are two videos I presented at the final M.S. presentations.  The first is showing different videos I took of Sean Vance’s Universal Design class at Michigan.  During the time I was his GSRA (graduate student research assistant) and he was advising me on the tenants of universal design.  He ran an amazing class that engaged students physically to look around their environment and find problems.  The video also shows what human movement is like in the virtual space, and how advanced are ability is to recreate human motion.

    The second video is showing the different elements of the plugins I wrote.  Most of the video is each individual component and how they work.  Towards the end of the video I show how I imagine some architects and designers would use the program.

    In the future I hope to write some blog tutorials explaining all the code.  In the meantime, if anyone is interested in the code just let me know.

    The direct download is here


    This research demonstrates methods for integrating simulation
    and visualization techniques with the current tools used in design
    work-flows. The techniques are applied to human factors with
    a concentration on disabilities. A tool named Universal Design
    Manikin is developed. The tool integrates a virtual manikin and
    wheelchair with a coresponding graphical user interface. The
    research covers factors from a human scale of reach abilitiy to a large
    scale of building navigation. The research presents an opportunity
    for seamless collaboration between scientists and designers by
    integrating joint analysis tools with design tools. Methods for
    simulation and visualization of reach, vision, navigation, and spatial
    zones are presented.

    Citation information is here:

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