UI virtual soldier program receives $8.6 million contract - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI virtual soldier program receives $8.6 million contract

A team of University of Iowa researchers has received a five-year contract worth up to $8.6 million from the U.S. Navy for a project that could ultimately save lives and increase combat effectiveness by having military personnel carry lighter loads into combat.

The renowned Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) program at the UI College of Engineering's Center for Computer-Aided Design won the contract for the project formally known as "Enhanced Technologies for Optimization of Warfighter Load" (ETOWL).

Karim Abdel-Malek, project principal investigator, VSR director and UI professor of biomedical engineering, said that the project will support the Office of Naval Research's "Lighten-the-Load" program for the Navy and the Marines.

"We are proud at VSR to have been selected by the U.S. Navy for this critical work. This program not only will advance the understanding of warfighter performance, but will also add value to the core SANTOS™ technology," said Abdel-Malek. "This effort builds upon an eight-year history of human simulation work at Iowa that led to the development of SANTOS™, a digital 3D avatar that is biomechanically accurate and that can calculate strength, fatigue, and physiological requirements."

He noted that military personnel carry substantial loads -- even for routine engagements and missions -- due to uncertainties involved in mission planning.

Using VSR's computerized version of a human being, engineers will be able to evaluate the effect of equipment loads on such variables as human mobility and physical stress -- without having to place a real warfighter in the field.

"To accomplish this goal, the ETOWL program will focus on technology development in two areas," said Abdel-Malek. "The first is the development of computational modeling tools. The second is the development of an easy-to-use planning tool that leverages these models and enables small-unit leaders to evaluate likely performance trade-offs of different equipment profiles across a squad."

The foundation of VSR's ETOWL effort is the SANTOS™ digital human modeling and simulation environment. Under development at VSR since 2003, and leveraging more that $23 million in research funding by the U.S. Department of Defense and industrial partners and collaborators, including Caterpillar, Inc., Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, General Motors and others, SANTOS™ represents the state-of-the-art in technology application of physics-based and physiological response-based human modeling and simulation, with respect to task-based human performance assessment.

The VSR team is composed of more than 40 faculty and professional staff researchers from colleges, departments and programs across the University of Iowa, including the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, and Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. Research areas include musculoskeletal modeling, whole-body vibration, motion-capture and validation, immersive virtual reality, physiology, ergonomic assessment, zone differentiation, posture and motion prediction, hand modeling, spine modeling, gait modeling and simulation, predictive dynamics, dynamic strength and fatigue, clothing modeling, human performance, and armor and soldier performance.

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