A novel intelligent experimental research environment (LUTERGO laboratory) for developing the usability of off-road machines was created at LUT University. The environment combines a real-time simulator and an experimental system for measuring human body responses when driving the virtual prototypes of machines. Based on the quantities measured from the operator, such as heart rate, electrodermal, muscular, and brain activity, the stress level of the operator can be evaluated. It is assumed that by combining simulated machine data and biosignals, the usability of every virtual prototype of a new machine can be assessed during the R&D process. This is an alternative to a traditional approach when usability is studied with physical prototypes after conceptual R&D phases using qualitative data from questionnaires.

The paper describes the structure and capabilities of the LUTERGO laboratory. Results of the initial tests are presented, which studied the influence of hydraulic valve dynamics on excavator vibration and operator biosignals. The results show that the biosignal parameters used as stress indicators change following the variation of time constant for directional valves controlling the main boom cylinders of the excavator. The paper concludes with future research directions using the novel environment.

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