Human Factors
Prototyping Studio


Our vision is of a global manufacturing economy connected through Internet and telecommunications technology.  In this vision, manufacturing companies will cost-effectively design new products in direct collaboration over information networks.  The information infrastructure will enable groups of companies to organize themselves into virtual corporations.

This vision requires that we develop a highly interactive means to conceptualize, design, test, plan, fabricate, and serve products --- a concept we call Networked Engineering.

Networked Engineering is a fruit of the growth in computer power and networking connectivity, and will reshape the relationships among creators (i.e., design and manufacturing companies) and consumers (i.e., product customers).

Distributed Design Environments network product life-cycle knowledge from diverse disciplines, integrates them interactively and collaboratively through remote interaction between engineers and users --- having unique organizational and human impact. It increases the effectiveness of engineering teams, industry organizations and consumer communities that work together across distances and over time to rapidly and economically produce the most desirable products.


Example Scenario

A distributed team of designers are developing a mechatronic system for motion control, each team assigned a specific subsystem. Design begins with an overall conceptual specification of the mechatronic device, including annotations about desired functions, performance, response time, acceptable materials, strength, weight limits, tolerancing information, etc. The design teams use the network to communicate with each other and contact engineering service agents. For example, one team accesses a searchable digital library of design artifacts and their associated simulations, personnel, and process knowledge. As the design evolves, participants in the process download custom tools for detailed CAD, negotiation, system simulation, software, and fabrication.

Eventually, the preliminary designs for product and its subsystems become the starting points for collaborative design, involving negotiation and interaction among human players and software agents. Each move in the game of collaborative design may result in proposals from other agents (e.g., changes in parameter values of subsystem design) to be evaluated. This evaluation may trigger redesign, accesses to previous design histories and corporate data, and refinements of simulation models. As the process iterates, the moves and decisions are recorded and archived until, eventually, the final product is defined and prototyped.


Research Focus

Networked Engineering requires new modes of human-computer interaction, collaborative and interactive negotiation, proactive CAD and simulation environments, and repositories to store the knowledge generated by the distributed engineering enterprise. 

This project includes basic research, prototype development, and empirical studies to understand the fundamental processes through which knowledge is created, communicated, negotiated, validated, archived and reused in distributed engineering environments.

Last modified: Wed Mar 13 18:05:03 Eastern Standard Time 2002