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‘Digital humans’ can improve ergonomic behavior among workers, new research says

A team of researchers from Texas A&M University analyzed whether training by a digital human would give remote workers knowledge of ergonomics that would lead them to change their work behavior. The team found that digital human training outcomes are comparable to those from conventional online training.  

The promising ideas presented in the study were published in Applied Ergonomics and was conducted by Kaysey Aguilar, Mark Benden and Matthew Lee Smith from the School of Public Health, and with Stephanie Payne from the College of Arts and Sciences.   

The research team recruited a sample of remote workers from a telecommunications company and randomly assigned them to a digital human group, a conventional online training group and a control group that did not receive training. The two courses used the same content to ensure they could be accurately compared.   

The researchers sent each participant a questionnaire that collected data on demographics, remote work practices, ergonomics knowledge, ergonomic behavior and incidence of musculoskeletal discomfort before and after training.  

Analysis of the questionnaires found that both the conventional and digital human groups had improved ergonomics knowledge and decreased musculoskeletal discomfort, showing that the two methods have comparable outcomes. However, only the conventional online training group had statistically significant improvements in ergonomic behavior.  

In addition, the findings point to the potential for digital human-based training to improve remote workers’ ergonomics knowledge and practices. The prevalence of remote work and the introduction of technological advances make innovation and research on remote ergonomics training an important factor in ensuring a healthy workforce, the researchers said. 

Although the digital human training was not found to be superior to conventional methods, the researchers note a need for further research that fully utilizes the digital human’s conversational abilities and suggest that customization to workers needs could make them more effective than typical online training methods.