He stands 6 ft tall, muscular and fit, he does not smile so much, but he certainly does accomplish a lot of work manipulating objects, walking and running, helping in the design of assembly lines for the automobile industry and testing new armor for the US Military. His name is Santos and is the brainchild of a research group at the University of Iowa called the Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) program. Santos is a complete environment for conducting human simulation.
Santos was born three and half years ago and the program has secured over $13M in funding since its inception. The team of 35 researchers at the University of Iowa have forged strong partnerships with government, industry, and military partners including the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Armaments Command (US Army TARDEC), Caterpillar, Inc., Rockwell Collins, the US Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Daimler-Chrysler.
Typical methods for evaluating safety and ergonomics using digital humans have been based on simple cartoon-like avatars that must be manipulated in the digital environment. An expert ergonomist, for example, would have to manipulate the avatars’ joints to create a representative set of postures and then evaluate the resultant angles and moments to deem a task acceptable or unacceptable.
Santos, on the other hand, provides a sophisticated suite of tools to predict postures and motions
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2007-01-24.