UI Engineering department sees progress in virtual soldier, predicting injuries

Published: Feb. 23, 2018 at 10:08 PM CST
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The University of Iowa Engineering Department has been working for more than a decade to perfect its robotics research.

The U.S. military is using this technology to better prepare soldiers.

Now, the department is taking it a step further.

Santos is technically only 9 years old but he's already helped soldiers learn efficiency in their training

"Imagine you send Santos in and say 'try this tank for me.' Can you see? Can you touch? Can you engage target? Can you maintain something? It's a way to test things inside the virtual world," said Dr. Karim Abdel-Malek.

Wars aren't fought in a virtual world but in preparing for them, the University of Iowa is.

Dr. Abdel Malek said the ability to try things out in cyberspace helps save time and money on big projects.

"If you want to create a new tank, that takes about 15 years to do. That's about two or three billion dollars. So in the engineering world, we try to do all of that on the computer," said Dr. Abdel-Malek.

It's all brought together by motion capture cameras that reflect the actions to Santos.

Dr. Abdel-Malek said the next step in using this artificial intelligence is the ability to predict a wound before the injury happens.

"It basically learns what people do using sensors, just like you're wearing your fit bit. It learns from all of it and predicts for you whether you would be injured in a couple days or weeks," said Dr. Abdel-Malek.

The University of Iowa is running tests in the athletic department to help foresee injuries, like a torn ACL.

"Elite athletes, we put a lot of sensors on them. Every day, we track them, we know what they're doing, we know what they eat, how much they sleep, fatigue, stress, all of these things are incredibly important," said Dr. Abdel-Malek.

"I believe it can't be used in every circumstance but there's a lot of circumstances where the 3D capabilities will be beneficial," said University of Iowa Biomedical Engineering Student Matt Wipfler.

The injury prediction software should be complete by this time next year.