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Ergonomics plays a role in almost every aspect of human interaction with the world around us—how we work, entertain ourselves, rest, and relax. Simply put, ergonomics (sometimes termed “human factors and ergonomics” or simply “human factors”) refers to the way in which physiological and psychological principles are applied to design, particularly in ways that benefit a user’s physical and psychological well-being and productivity.

In practice, ergonomics addresses more than our physical interactions but also encompasses our mental, emotional, and interpersonal states. What unites these different applications of ergonomic theory is that they can be studied and better understood with many of the same tools and signals applied in other areas of physiological and psychophysiological research. These can include ECG, EOG, fNIRS, EEG, and EMG, to name just a few.

Ergonomics can be broken down into three primary domains. Physical ergonomics relates to how the body interacts with the physical environment, from the design of tools we use every day to the physical environments in which we live and work. Cognitive ergonomics focuses on how our mental abilities are influenced by the systems and tasks with which we are presented. Organizational ergonomics (also known as macroergonomics) explores how to optimize organizational structures, policies, and processes within various social settings, including work environments.

Eye TrackingOne example of how physiological signals are being applied in physical ergonomics research involves the application of electrooculogram (EOG) signals to analyze eye movements, particularly saccades, as a measurement of eye fatigue caused by exposure to digital screens. The ubiquity of such screens in both our work and recreational environments makes such research critical to maintaining user well-being and productivity. This 2018 study utilized EOG electrodes connected via SS2LB leads to an MP36 data acquisition unit running BSL software to record and analyze EOG signals. Researchers were able to determine the optimal reading and viewing distance to minimize eye fatigue and discomfort, improving user health and productivity.

Cognitive ergonomics come into play when discussing the ease-of-use for a product. This is particularly important when dealing with how less technologically savvy groups interact with new technology, a challenge is explored in a 2019 study into how to develop a home heart monitor that would be easy for older users to operate. The study compared user interaction with device hardware, a mobile app, and a cloud-based software platform while using a BIOPAC research-level system as a control. Researchers created the signal baseline with an ECG amplifier connected to a data acquisition and analysis unit, comparing these results to the quality of the signal the user was able to obtain using the self-administered home devices and applications. This approach accurately assesses both the user-friendliness and quality of data obtained by several telemedicine systems.

These examples offer just a small sample of the ways in which physiological signals are being applied in the study of ergonomics. For an in-depth exploration of the topic, watch our webinar series on Ergonomics and Fatigue.

To learn more about using BIOPAC hardware and software to enhance your ergonomics study or design research, contact your local sales representative.

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