The approach described in this paper aims to offer designers a new way to investigate use processes of a product, by integrating scenarios of expected user behavior with simulations of artifact behavior. We introduce a method and system framework to model and simulate virtual human-artifact systems, aiming to resolve two knowledge-related issues in use-process simulation: (i) the integration of distinct modeling and simulation approaches (ii) extending the deployability of simulations towards conceptual design. This paper elaborates on achievements in the first area. Currently, performing complete-picture simulations in which the product and the human user react on each other’s behaviors is not practicable. To make this possible, a hybrid approach is proposed. Behavior that is commonly modeled based on the laws of physics is simulated as continuous behavior, while information-processing behavior is simulated as discrete behavior. Discrete behavior is represented by finite state machines, which are behavioral models encompassing human decision-making and information-processing by artifacts. They enable the designer to perform what-if studies involving different ‘scenario structures’ of human decisions during simulated use, and thus to address an important factor contributing to the diversity of use processes. For continuous (physical) behavior multibody dynamics simulation and simulation with discretized 3D object models can be considered. A pilot study of a basic use process showed that our concept of hybrid simulation successfully enables investigation of multiple courses of use processes. However, the applicability of multibody simulation turned out to be limited, because of the crucial role of large deformations in human-artifact interaction. To overcome these limitations, discretized models are proposed for the next steps towards building a full-fledged system.

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