Computer Graphics World

Aug/Sept 2012

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n n n n Simulation S 24 everal years ago, professor Karim Malek had a small lab in the University of Iowa, staffed with approximately 10 students working on a research project. They wanted to see if they could predict and simulate human movements by applying robotic prin- ciples to human anatomy. As their project gained momentum, the US Army came knocking on their door, with a check for $2.7 million. Malek explained why the military took an interest in his work: To explore ergonomic setups, design possibilities, and safety measures, digital humans boldly go where no man has gone before BY KENNETH WONG "You can do a lot of testing [on a tank design] in the virtual world. Thermodynamics, aerodynamics, stress tests—all these can be done on a computer. The only time you must build the tank is when you want to put a soldier in it, so you can ask him or her, 'How does it feel inside there? Can you assemble this system? Can you engage the target or see through the visor from where you're sitting?' But what if you can put a virtual soldier into the virtual tank?" With a robust bank account to attract top talents, Malek assembled a team comprising nearly 30 experts from all over the world to take on the Virtual Soldier Research project for the Army. Then contracts began rolling in, from Caterpillar, Rockwell Collins, the US Marines, Ford, GM, and many more entities. Nearly a decade later, having invested close to $30 mil- lion to refine the technology, the professor's humble lab gave birth to Santos and Sophia, a digital duo for the commercial market. Malek is now part of a team that oversees SantosHuman, Inc., a company spun off from the lab. The young firm (formed in 2010) represents and licenses the intellectual property of the University of Iowa. The university conducts research and development; the company markets and distributes software suites. Virtual humans play an important role in keeping their human counterparts safe. August/September 2012 Image courtesy Dassault Systemes.

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