Publications / 2019 Proceedings of the 36th ISARC, Banff, Alberta, Canada

A Mixed VR and Physical Framework to Evaluate Impacts of Virtual Legs and Elevated Narrow Working Space on Construction WorkersÂ’ Gait Pattern

Mahmoud Habibnezhad, Jay Puckett, Mohammad Sadra Fardhosseini and Lucky Agung Pratama
Pages 1057-1064 (2019 Proceedings of the 36th ISARC, Banff, Alberta, Canada, ISBN 978-952-69524-0-6)

It is difficult to conduct training and evaluate workers’ postural performance by using the actual job site environment due to safety concerns. Virtual reality (VR) provides an alternative to create immersive working environments without significant safety concerns. Working on elevated surfaces is a dangerous scenario, which may lead to gait and postural instability and, consequently, a serious fall. Previous studies showed that VR is a promising tool for measuring the impact of height on the postural sway. However, most of these studies used the treadmill as the walking locomotion apparatus in a virtual environment (VE). This paper was focused on natural walking locomotion to reduce the inherent postural perturbations of VR devices. To investigate the impact of virtual height on gait characteristics and keep the level of realism and feeling of presence at their highest, we enhanced the first-person-character model with ‘virtual legs’. Afterward, we investigated its effect on the gait parameters of the participants with and without the presence of height. To that end, twelve healthy adults were asked to walk on a virtual loop path once at the ground level and once at the 17th floor of an unfinished structure. By quantitatively comparing the participants’ gait pattern results, we observed a decrease in the stride length and increase in the gait duration of the participants exposed to height. At the ground level the use of enhanced model reduced participants’ average stride length and height. In other words, in the presence of VR legs, the level of realism significantly increases and thus results in a better virtual gait simulation. The results of this study help us understand users’ behaviors when they were exposed to elevated surfaces and establish a firm ground for gait stability analysis for the future height-related VR studies. We expect this developed VR platform can generate reliable results of VR application in more construction safety studies.

Keywords: Construction safety; virtual reality; virtual legs; extreme height; gait pattern; fall