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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 4, 2007

Virtual Soldier Research program receives $1.77 million U.S. Army contract

The Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) program at the Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) in the University of Iowa College of Engineering has signed a one-year, $1.77 million contract with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command Center (TACOM).

The contract is to continue research in support of the army's transformation vision and, in particular, advance research on VSR's digital human SANTOS™. A digital human is a computer-generated character that mimics with great accuracy the anatomy, behavior, motion and intelligence of a real human being. Digital humans are used to test and evaluate products, equipment, vehicles, and armaments before they are built, saving time, money and, potentially, lives.

"This additional funding from TACOM will help us achieve our desired goal of pushing the envelope to accurately simulate, measure and analyze soldier performance, leading to our being able to help the military achieve their goals," said Karim Abdel-Malek (photo left), contract principal investigator, founder and director of the VSR program and professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering.

Four years after its inception, the VSR program has attracted more than $15 million dollars in external funding to the UI and has quickly attained national and international distinction. In addition, the program has forged major partnerships that include agreements with Caterpillar, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Rockwell Collins, Honda, Natick Soldier Systems Center and the US Army TARDEC.

At the heart of VSR research are fundamental theories in predicting how humans move under various loading conditions, such as typical soldier load and armament, and while executing a variety of prescribed tasks. Eight years in development, VSR's research method -- called "Predictive Dynamics" -- has made a significant impact on simulating how humans move while being able to predict physics-based, realistically human motions and potential injuries, according to Abdel-Malek.

"Predictive Dynamics is now heralded by many as a revolutionary method for simulating human motion and is poised to make a significant impact on how products are designed and tested by humans before the are made," he says.

In collaboration with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, Boston, VSR researchers are helping design a soldier simulator for the design of new upper- and lower-extremity armor, a concept inspired by the current Iraq war. Once delivered, this system will enable the military to design new armor and efficiently field it.

This latest contract will advance both basic and applied research by the VSR team's 37 researchers, who comprise a multidisciplinary team from across the UI. The team includes professional staff members, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. The focus is on advancing the team's fundamental theories for task-based and physics-based motion prediction and on validating these predicted motions using VSR's state of the art facilities for motion capture.

Research at VSR combines rigorous engineering methods with components adapted from the entertainment and gaming industries to provide the most advanced human modeling and simulation system known to date. The work complements existing expertise at Iowa and brings together researchers in engineering, medicine and the military.

The VSR program has received numerous awards over the past four years, including three garnered for papers authored by researchers, the 2007 State of Iowa Prometheus award for Best Government Technology, and the Battelle Award for commercialization. Also, VSR research has been featured in stories carried by the Discovery Channel, Wired magazine and other media outlets.

In addition to principal investigator Abdel-Malek, project investigators include Jasbir Arora, Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Salam Rahmatallah, assistant professor of civil and environment engineering; Steve Beck, VSR senior projects manager; and Tim Marler, VSR senior research scientist.

For more information about this project, please visit or contact Abdel-Malek at

CONTACTS: Karim Abdel-Malek, VSR Program, 319-335-6163,; Gary Galluzzo, University News Services, 319-384-0009,