ABOUT BIOMECHANICS: Biomechanics is the study of the anatomical principles of movement, such as how birds and insects fly; how fish swim; and the most efficient ways a human can move. When we walk, with every step, the foot strikes the ground on the outside edge of the heel, the shinbone twists inward, and the foot rolls inward to bear the weight, absorbing the shock of impact. Then the shinbone twists outward and the foot begins to lift at the heel, providing a springboard for the toes to push the body's weight forward off the ground. The foot then swings forward to repeat the cycle. Running has similar mechanics, but can be seen as a series of alternating hops from left to right leg.
WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY: The term "virtual reality" is often confusing because it is used in so many different ways. It is often used to describe interactive software programs -- on or off the Web -- in which the user responds to visual and auditory cures as he or she navigates a three-dimensional environment on a graphics monitor. But originally, it referred to immersive virtual environments, in which the user would be immersed in an artificial, three-dimensional computer-generated world, involving not just sight and sound, but touch as well through so-called "haptic" devices. Touch is vital to direct and guide human movement, and the use of haptics in virtual environments simulates how objects and actions feel to the user through biofeedback processes.
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS? This is a branch of science that strives to design the job to fit the worker, rather than the other way around. In the modern office, it most commonly relates to the physical stresses placed on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, even hearing and eyesight, along with other environmental factors that can adversely affect comfort and health. Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technology and work environments with the human body, and involves such things as anatomy, physiology, and psychology in the design of chairs, desks, computer accessories, the design of car controls and instruments -- in short, any kind of product that could help relieve potential repetitive strain from a given job or task.
The American Physical Society and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.