Like-minded experts met in 2000 with the idea of sharing their data resources and bringing push-button ease to accessing accurate and current anthropometry datasets. The result was the World Engineering Anthropometry Resource (WEAR). This web-based tool with near unlimited applications is global in scope and close to roll-out.
The experts held their meeting at the 2000 Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and International Ergonomics Association conference in San Diego, said Kathleen M. Robinette, Ph.D., who participated in the founding meeting. She is now president of the WEAR association, which is registered in Europe as a non-profit body. In an October interview with The Ergonomics Report™, Dr. Robinette, the Principal Research Anthropologist at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson base, recalled that the group agreed to meet again in 2001, but the terror attacks of 9/11 set back the plan. Their first actual meeting was in June 2002. "Now we have members from six continents, only missing Antarctica," she said.
According to the association’s website, the members-cum-partners contribute to the project by donating data or tools. They are given a say in the content, output and structure of the system as it is developed so their individual needs can be accommodated. Partners who also provide data, tools, or a node or hub will have users sent to their site, which will give them the chance to display their capabilities to targeted clients. WEAR use is fee-based, but in-kind contributions can earn partial or full fee waivers.
Users will be invited once the last elements of the project are in place.
According to Dr. Robinette, the data in the resource will come from anyone, anywhere, who wants to contribute it. "We provide the tools to enable them to write the XML code for their data entities so that the same entities in other datasets will be linked. The WEAR association will act as reviewers of the data sets and rate the quality based upon standards we establish so that any user will have this information to evaluate whether or not they want to use the data provided."
She explained that when the WEAR partners say data, they mean the raw data, not summary statistics nor books about datasets. "Effective use of anthropometry requires raw data," she added.
The benefits for partners and users can only be described as vast. They will have online access to over 145 data bases that include more than 12 million individual datum. WEAR incorporates the CAESAR® data base and its 3D body scans, which is used by NATO, the International Standards
Organization and other bodies. CAESAR®, (Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource Project), which is promoted as "the most comprehensive source for body measurement data," was a milestone in itself. It standardized data collection methods so that the data base can be consistently expanded and updated. Started as a partnership between government and industry, the project collected data on 2,400 North American civilians and 2,000 civilians from 1998 to 2000.
Collaboration with CODATA, an interdisciplinary Scientific Committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU), marked a second big milestone for WEAR. Established in 1966, CODATA states as its mission improving the quality, reliability, management and accessibility of data of importance to all fields of science and technology. The committee argues on its website that "the pre-eminence of the information revolution fueled through the Internet, the World Wide Web and the explosion of personal computing today, makes CODATA’s mission even more important."
The CODATA Task Group on Anthropometric Data and Engineering was established to provide additional structure for WEAR and provide a better organizational framework for international collaborations.
Addressing the Limitations of Today’s Tools
The WEAR partners explain on the website that despite the utility of the Internet and sophistication of computing resources, there is nothing that could be described as "push-button ease" for users of today’s anthropometric data bases. They note that it is "time consuming and costly to find, access and analyze appropriate reliable data for a design query; raw data is often not available; often only summary statistics are published; international sources of data are not always known; the quality of data cannot be always be assured; and analysis tools and knowledge of their appropriate use may be limited to a few experts."
The partners are shaping WEAR to addresses all of these limitations.
The purpose of the resource is "to promote effective use of anthropometry," according to Dr. Robinette. Its components include "globally distributed (not housed all in one place) anthropometry data that can be searched, queried, re-grouped, analyzed and modeled, etc. for new applications." Data analysis and visualization tools are part of the package, as well as human models that adapt to numerous data sources and types. Dr. Robinette also listed fit scores and fit maps, along with their associated patterns or CAD drawings and anthropometry for use in design and sizing; biomechanics test data; tutorials for database querying, new data collection, quality control, data application and analysis; and tools for entering new datasets to the distributed network.
WEAR’s datasets will have wide civilian and military applications. As listed on the website, they include product design; clothing design and size allocation; footwear and headgear design and sizing; furniture design; workstations and workspaces; evaluation of the accommodation of a user population; personal protective equipment; and vehicles.
Roll-Out in Sight
The point at which WEAR will be ready for users is close. "We have established a structured naming system for anthropometry and an XML schema, and have a prototype software package, called AMI (anthropometry measurement interface-or "friend," in French-to enable people to arrive at the structured name and XML code for their data sets," explained Dr. Robinette. "One can imagine that in the near future organizations with anthropometric data will start using the WEAR naming conventions even for their own internal use, leading to better interoperability for the whole field."
Challenges remain. "We have two prototype searchable databases that we are working to link using web services – ARIS in the United States and ErgoData in France. We haven’t finished working out the bugs for this yet. Once we do we should be able to connect up additional databases more easily. Using this strategy everyone can search the international data that is resident all over the world from their own database and in their own language. No one has to give up or lose control of their own data, but they can allow others to find it."
The data resource is just one aspect of WEAR. The association has developed a short course that has been offered twice," according to Dr. Robinette. "[It] includes instruction on the anthropometry basics and a few more advanced things such as how to use the INTEGRATE software to analyze and compare 3D data files."
Most members feel the meetings where we share information and methods are the most valuable part of the association, she added. The next meeting is the Anthropometry Conference and Workshop 17-19 February 2010, at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, hosted by WEAR and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. The theme is anthropometric fit.
WEAR conferences have been held in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and China, reflecting the formidable reach of the partnership.
Sources: Dr. KM Robinette; WEAR; CODATA
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2009-10-14.