Say “avatar” and you think of the James Cameron‘s movie box-office smash of all time. Or your virtual alter ego in Second Life or in your favorite virtual world or MMORPG. But for a company avatars can be much more than a fun.
A note from the Ford group entitled “Ford’s global expansion starts with a Hollywood avatar working on virtual assembly lines” explains that the US auto manufacturer with a stronger presence “in Asia, Africa and other markets” decided that a digital employee “undergoes ergonomic assessments that use Hollywood animation technology to get a head start on virtual assembly lines, reducing the physical stress of jobs and improving quality” of Ford products.
The multinational avatar “is based on Ford’s North American virtual workers, Jack and Jill, and now reflects the sizes and shapes of workers at assembly plants across the globe”. The first overseas assignments of the “global digital manikin” (as Ford define its avatars) are for new products planned for new assembly plants in China, the new Focus being assembled in Germany and the US, and the global Ranger being built in Thailand and South Africa.
The new manikin helps Ford address quality issues before they occur in the real world and “soon it will be joined by Santos, a virtual model adapted from the Department of Defense’s soldier model” developed by Iowa University, still being tested in Ford laboratories using Santos in a virtual worldto simulate better and safer working conditions at its production facilities. In short: the US producer’s avatars can be useful devices is to design better cars and more efficient plant “tailored” for men (real ones, not virtual ones).