University of Iowa Virtual Solider Research

Uploaded by universityofiowa on 06.09.2012

Mechanical Engineering student David Bein came to the University of Iowa after serving
in the Marines. He was an avionics tech who worked on Harrier jets.
I always kind of knew growing up that I was going to join the marines. My dad was a marine.
He’s one of those old salty marines that still throw around marine slang. So I always
kind of knew it was going to be a step in my path of life. After serving his country,
David knew he wanted to get a degree. His wife wanted to come to Iowa, so he moved to
Iowa City and enrolled in the Engineering program. I guess I’ll do mechanical engineering,
which is always something I’ve kind of been interested in. Ever since I was a kid, I guess
I’ve always been really interested in it, I just didn’t know what the name was. I
liked architecture because I liked designing things. Now that I’m a mechanical engineering
student, I see that’s actually a far better path if I want to design things. It was while
he was at the University Veteran’s Center on campus that he was approached to help out
with, Santos and the virtual soldier project. As soon as I heard they needed help, I said
yeah, I’ll go do that. As veterans, we ask people for help all the time. It’s very
rarely that people come and ask us for help with stuff. They needed some vets to come
in and help make things look correct for Santos. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was
applying for a job. With his marine background, David became the military advisor for Santos,
the virtual soldier. He works with Biomedical Engineering Professor Dr. Karim Malek, who
is the director for the Virtual Soldier Research Program. The virtual solider is a human being
that we make live on the computer. We want to make him as real as possible, as life-like
as possible to answer questions for us that we can’t answer. That could be, you send
him into an environment and say, hey Santos, try this thing, see what you think. How comfortable
are you? We want him to answer these questions to us. Santos is not only a computer model;
he is the only human model that actually predicts motion. He is able to test things virtually
and provide insight to what may or may not work. We’re not trying to replicate motion.
We want Santos to give us what’s called cause and effect. If you push him, we want
him to fall. We want Santos to fall and tell us I fell because you pushed me with this
particular force. Santos quickly was in demand. He was able to test things virtually and respond
to conditions he encountered. The virtual soldier project was created to save the military
time and money when designing new equipment. All of a sudden we had the Army very interested,
one particular area of the Army called Tank-Com that designs tanks, and they wanted to see
is we could send Santos into the tank and check things for them. That’s what started
it. Then comes Caterpillar, Caterpillar wanted to use Santos to design and test their very
large equipment, all before they manufacture. Instead of taking 10 years to create a tank
or a huge appliance or construction equipment, you want to reduce that time significantly.
The way you do this is you prototype; you try things inside the computer before you
cut metal. It enables people to test things before they’re designed badly. Dr. Malek
uses Marines and athletes to base the movements of Santos to ensure that his actions are what
an actual human would do. He does so by comparing the motions of Santos to a real person using
motion capture technology. So motion capture, which is Hollywood technology, is using a
very sophisticated set of cameras… and we model, or capture the motion off a person
going through a task. After David became the military advisor for the Virtual Soldier Program,
he used his passion for designing to become a 3-D modeler for Santos. To visualize anything
inside of software, whether a video game or Santos or anything like that, you have 3D
models in them. Say you’re playing a video game, and there’s a car, there was a 3D
modeler who built that car in a 3D modeling application. You start from scratch and you
bring out primitives and stretch them and move them to the shapes you need to be. Then
you export that and give it to the programmers and the coders and they put that into the
software. And the research continues for the Virtual Soldier project. In an effort by Congress
to address the load soldiers carry and how it affects their performance, the Lighten
the Load project was announced to see how much or how little a soldier carries impedes
their flexibility, agility, and speed. Our part if it is to have Santos understand what
it takes to lighten the load. Instead of bringing in thousands of soldiers in or thousands of
marines in, we’re able to deploy Santos, and Santos is able to test any new equipment,
configuration of equipment, heavy loads, light loads. As a result it will take one day. And
David knows first-hand what it is like to carry a pack full of gear. And he uses that
experience when modeling the pack for Santos. We had 57-ish items that we needed to model
and put into the software. So myself and 2 other modelers have modeled all of those.
Basically, it’s everything a marine would ever carry on a deployment. The Virtual Soldier
research that is done at the University of Iowa is being put to use out in the field,
for both the military and private sector. And that is what keeps the 50-member team
going. Every scientist, every faculty member wants to see their stuff out there used by
people. It is more rewarding for me that the military is using it on a daily basis, and
hopefully it will save lives. And David is willing to help any way he can, as a Marine,
and as a student. Someday, maybe years from now, I can point to a TV and say I helped
do that as an undergrad mechanical engineering student.