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University of Iowa News Release


May 14, 2007

Automakers Join Virtual Soldier Research Program With $1.5 Million Contract

The Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) program, located at the University of Iowa College of Engineering Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD), today announced that the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), an organization composed of DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation, has joined the program partnership with a $1.5 million contract for manufacturing ergonomics research.

At the UI, a team of 35 researchers is advancing state-of-the-art performance in computerized human modeling and simulation. Their work with USCAR will be aimed at helping the U.S. automakers use computer representations of people, called "digital humans," to design safer and more ergonomically acceptable manufacturing plants.

The partnership will address three large projects:

--A study of the strength and fatigue limits of automotive manufacturing plant workers.

--The development and integration of ergonomics tools into "Santos™" -- VSR's computer representation of a human.

--The advancement of the field of predictive mathematics, also referred to as "Predictive Dynamics," to enable Santos™ to predict such variables as his own walking speed and direction while carrying various loads and while mathematically predicting various postures.

"We are proud to have Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler join the program as partners through USCAR," said Karim Abdel-Malek, CCAD and VSR director and UI professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering. "Their shared vision in our quest to develop the most advanced human simulation system will add significant value to our efforts."

"We are excited to be partners in innovation with the Virtual Soldier Research Program in pursuing a better understanding of the human component within automotive manufacturing," said Allison Stephens, chair of USCAR's Ergonomics Task Force and technical specialist in Ford's Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering Department.

Initiated by VSR researchers, the use of Predictive Dynamics within Santos™ has already made a significant impact on the field of human motion prediction. The tool makes it possible to accurately calculate walking and running motions for digital humans, when given such variables as human body size, strength, weight, load-carrying abilities and clothing.

UI researchers say human simulation is expected to revolutionize existing technology by reducing the amount of physical prototypes made and providing new tools for simulating safety issues in manufacturing and assembly plants. "The Santos™ human model is poised to make a significant impact on the fields of manufacturing, ergonomics, safety, rehabilitation, assembly and more," Abdel-Malek said.

The digital humans VSR uses to conduct its research already possess human anatomy, behavior, motion and intelligence. When digital humans like Santos™ also are used to test and evaluate various products, vehicles and armaments before they are physically made, they can help manufacturers produce safer products faster and at reduced cost.

UI project co-investigators are: Dr. Tim Marler, VSR senior research scientist, who will serve as Iowa program manager; Dr. Laura Frey Law, assistant professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, who will lead the muscle strength experiments and modeling portion; Dr. Jasbir Arora, Wendell F. Miller Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and VSR program associate director, who will lead predictive dynamics research; Steve Beck, VSR senior project manager, who will oversee software implementation; Anith Mathai, VSR Staff Engineer who will lead the integration of ergonomic tools into Santos™, and Dr. Daniel Anton, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, College of Public Health, who will serve as a consultant on all ergonomics issues.

The VSR Program was established in 2003 to conduct basic and applied research aimed at creating the most advanced human simulation tools. While the program was first aimed at the military, it has grown rapidly over the past three years, attracting national and international attention and a significant amount of external funding to the UI. The VSR program has active partnerships with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command Center, Caterpillar, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center and Rockwell Collins, in addition to this new partnership with USCAR. The new contract means the VSR program has secured more than $13 million in external funding in the past three years.

Among its many accomplishments, the VSR program has: been featured on the Discovery Channel; exhibited at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles; exhibited at Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) in San Francisco; hosted the SAE Digital Human Modeling Conference, the most prestigious international conference of its kind; won best paper awards three times through its researchers; and won the 2007 Prometheus Award for Top Government Technology of the Year.

VSR researchers include faculty, staff, scientists, engineers, clinical researchers and graduate students from fields including engineering, gaming, psychology, biomechanics, human factors, computers, optimization and industrial design. Additional information can be found at

Founded in 1992, the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) is the umbrella organization for collaborative research among DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation. The goal of USCAR is to further strengthen the technology base of the domestic auto industry through cooperative research and development. For more information, visit USCAR's Web site at

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

CONTACTS: Research: Karim Abdel-Malek, director, U.S. Army Virtual Soldier Research Program; director, Center for Computer Aided Design and the National Advanced Driving Simulator; professor, Departments of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, University of Iowa, 319-335-5676,

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,