Analyzing human poses with a Kinect is a promising method to evaluate potentials risks of musculoskeletal disorders at workstations. In ecological situations, complex 3D poses and constraints imposed by the environment make it difficult to obtain reliable kinematic information. Thus, being able to predict the potential accuracy of the measurement for such complex 3D poses and sensor placements is challenging in classical experimental setups. To tackle this problem, we propose a new evaluation method based on a virtual mannequin. In this study, we apply this method to the evaluation of joint positions (shoulder, elbow, and wrist), joint angles (shoulder and elbow), and the corresponding RULA (a popular ergonomics assessment grid) upper-limb score for a large set of poses and sensor placements. Thanks to this evaluation method, more than 500,000 configurations have been automatically tested, which would be almost impossible to evaluate with classical protocols. The results show that the kinematic information obtained by the Kinect software is generally accurate enough to fill in ergonomic assessment grids. However inaccuracy strongly increases for some specific poses and sensor positions. Using this evaluation method enabled us to report configurations that could lead to these high inaccuracies. As a supplementary material, we provide a software tool to help designers to evaluate the expected accuracy of this sensor for a set of upper-limb configurations. Results obtained with the virtual mannequin are in accordance with those obtained from a real subject for a limited set of poses and sensor placements.
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