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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 12, 2005

Virtual Soldier Research Program Receives Over $1 Million In New Funding

The University of Iowa College of Engineering's Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD) and its Virtual Soldier Program (VSR) have received more than $1 million in new funding, including a $920,000 contract from the U.S. Army, a $55,000 contract from Caterpillar Inc. of Peoria, Ill., and a $45,000 grant from Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The new funding means that the VSR program, which celebrated its second anniversary earlier this month, has attracted a total of some $6.5 million in research support, as well as significant national and international recognition.

Dr. Karim Abdel-Malek, professor of biomedical engineering and CCAD and VSR director, says that the VSR team is well on its way to creating the most advanced digital humans -- research aimed at developing new human modeling and simulation technologies.

Under the terms of the new U.S. Army contract, the research objectives are to advance the kinematics (prediction of motion), performance and muscle characterization of the virtual soldier. In addition, the contract goals include predicting balance and gait as a virtual soldier is executing a task, and evaluating various design methods that require human factors issues early in the design cycle. This contract will build upon the significant momentum of some 35 researchers from various departments on the UI campus, Abdel-Malek says. The principal investigators on the Army contract are Abdel-Malek and Dr. Jasbir Arora, VSR associate director and professor of civil and environmental engineering. 

The Caterpillar contract, designed to study the vibration experienced by operators of heavy machinery, is in addition to an April 2005 $1.75 million, five-year partnership with Caterpillar.

While the April partnership will create new technologies in human modeling and simulation to improve VSR's realistic, computerized human model called "Santos," the latest contract recognizes the VSR program's rapidly emerging expertise in commercial product and health-related studies. Project researchers for the Caterpillar project include principal investigator Dr. Salam Rahmatallah, CCAD researcher; and investigators Dr. Laura Frey Law, assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and VSR researcher; Dr. Nicole Grosland, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and orthopaedic surgery and CCAD researcher; and Dr. David Wilder, associate professor of biomedical engineering and occupational and environmental health and senior research scientist in the Iowa Spine Research Center.

"This novel research will use a state-of-the-art, man-rated shaker table for studying human vibrations of seated operators in heavy machinery," said Dr. Rahmatallah, adding that the goal is to alleviate spinal stress and injury that often accompany the operation of heavy equipment.

The partnership with Caterpillar will enable UI staff, students and faculty to work with Caterpillar engineers to create new Santos capabilities, such as gripping forces and other factors helpful in determining product safety. Anatomically accurate and possessing the ability to make decisions and ask questions, Santos is an intelligent system. Santos can model clothing, muscles and human performance measures such as energy and fatigue, and it can predict natural motions.

The Rockwell-Collins award is an unrestricted grant to VSR for virtual manufacturing research by researchers Abdel-Malek and Steve Beck, VSR senior project manager. The award likely will involve the investigation of fields including the visualization of digital prototypes such as those modeled in the Santos environment.

The VSR team is the largest multidisciplinary group of its kind in the nation conducting research on human modeling and simulation. The multidisciplinary team has international experts in biomechanics, optimization, dynamics, haptics, psychology, neurology, muscle physiology and rehabilitation, and engineering and includes professional staff, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.

Additional information on VSR can be found at http://www.digital-humans.org/.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu