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Tuesday, May 06, 1997

Audrey Schwartz
Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
(281) 483-5111

Release: J97--16


NASA Technology Helps Put Workers in Good Posture

Poor posture or protracted activities can cause strain and fatigue for workers, including busy astronauts in the seemingly unconstrained weightless environment of space. Thanks to a new video analysis software tool developed by the NASA Johnson Space Center, working in space -- and on Earth -- may become much more comfortable.

The Posture Video Analysis Tool (PVAT) uses video from Space Shuttle flights to identify limiting posture and other workplace human factor problems. The software tool also provides data that recommends "appropriate" postures for certain tasks and safe duration for potentially harmful positions, such as when astronauts lying on their backs for several hours awaiting launch.

JSC recently signed an exclusive license agreement with BioMetric Systems, Houston, Texas, to further develop the PVAT technology for use by non-aerospace industries such as hospitals, physical rehabilitation facilities, insurance companies, sports medicine clinics, oil companies, manufacturers and the military.

BioMetric Systems, a woman-owned small business, is the first Native American company to license commercial technology with the NASA Johnson Space Center. An international human factors engineering company, BioMetrics, with the assistance of the JSC Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, plans to upgrade PVAT software systems for use on both Apple Macintosh and IBM-compatible computers.

NASA needed a low-cost, reliable method of collecting data on astronaut postures from non-scientific mission video. The traditional "paper-and-pencil" video analysis methods required predefined views from spacecraft cameras as well as specific reference points to classify working posture. With PVAT, researchers can use regular, nonscientific Shuttle videos to gather precise information about astronaut working postures and movements.

PVAT, using an interactive Macintosh menu and button-driven software, collects information on a variety of postural parameters such as body orientation, body part movement, severe or mild flexation rating, and task description. Once all the entries are made, analysis begins with a touch of a button. PVAT also includes a terminology library, animation illustrating selected posture classifications, data reduction summaries and report capabilities.

PVAT helps prepare astronauts for correctness of movement on Shuttle fights. PVAT analysis also can identify problems crews may have operating specific equipment to allow for hardware or procedure modifications that reduce fatigue and stress.

"PVAT is unique because it provides a fast and simple way to collect and classify working postures, even from videos not recorded specifically for experimental analysis," said Candace Caminati, president of BioMetric Systems.

"We are excited about PVAT’s human factors design and analysis potential in a variety of commercial industries and plan to begin use immediately."

PVAT illustrates another example of NASA’s and Johnson Space Center’s ongoing commitment to commercialize space technology that helps increase US global competitiveness.


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